The dangers of drinking and driving are well documented, and it only takes a relatively small amount of alcohol to have an effect on your driving ability. Drink driving awareness organisations such as Drinkwise Australia have undertaken extensive research on the effects that alcohol has on drivers, and have found that some drivers do not even have to be over the legal limit for their ability to drive to be affected. So how does alcohol affect your ability to drive, and make quick decisions when you are behind the wheel? Here are five ways that drinking can affect your driving skills.
- Concentrating on multiple things at one time
Driving is all about multitasking. Steering while watching for pedestrians or cyclists involves the ability to concentrate on more than one thing at a time. When you have a drink, this ability is impaired, which can make it easier for you to miss something and have an accident.
- Impaired vision
Alcohol affects your ability to see clearly, which is vitally important when driving, particularly at night when you need to be able to judge other vehicles’ positions and speed from their headlights. Driving also requires the ability to shift your gaze and refocus on objects quickly, an ability that is impaired by even low levels of alcohol.
- Reaction time
When you drink it affects your reaction time – the time it takes for you to see an object or hazard, and react to it. This can be a major contributor to accidents. Alcohol impairs your ability to assess a situation, and make a quick decision as to the best course of action, and this can prove dangerous in hazardous situations.
Alcohol affects your ability to perceive hazards and assess situations correctly. Failing to notice dangerous situations, or perceive them as potentially hazardous, can lead to an accident.
- Tracking ability
Your ability to successfully track your position is what keeps you from drifting out of your lane when you are driving, and alcohol can significantly impact your ability to do this. This can be especially hazardous when the driving conditions are difficult, such as in rainy weather or high winds, and can be a major contributor to head on or side collisions.
Even if your blood alcohol content is not at a level that is considered ‘high’, driving with alcohol in your system can still contribute to an accident.
Research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the US shows that your driving ability can be affected by a BAC of as little as 0.03 in some situations, which is below the legal limit for driving in NSW.
As everyone is different, it can be difficult to know whether or not you are over the legal limit for driving. How quickly your body processes alcohol can vary from person to person, and even in the same person depending how much they have eaten and whether there are any other mitigating circumstances.
If you have been caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit, it is a good idea to seek advice from a firm of experienced drink driving lawyers (Sydney Criminal Lawyers), particularly if you have been involved in an accident. The penalties for drinking and driving can be harsh, and generally include disqualification from driving – which can impact your lifestyle and employment prospects.