The Dangers of Drunk Driving

Top 5 Dangers Caused by Drunk Driving

Alcohol-related road accidents are a widespread problem that claims the lives of many individuals. The National Highway Traffic Administration reports that over 30 people die daily in alcohol-involved crashes and that one person is killed every 45 minutes due to alcohol-impaired drivers. In 2020, drunk driving accidents resulted in 11,654 deaths. Despite efforts by organizations like MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) to eliminate drunk driving, it remains a leading cause of road fatalities.

However, some individuals still drink and drive without realizing the potential harm they may cause. Driving while under the influence of alcohol not only endangers your life, but also those of others on the road. The legal limit for blood alcohol content in the US is 0.08%. However, it’s essential to keep in mind that each person reacts differently to alcohol. Alcohol consumption impairs judgment, reaction time, vision, coordination, and concentration – all crucial for safe driving. Driving under the influence can result in a DUI, but the consequences can be far more severe.

1. Drinking and Driving Inhibits Good Judgment

Alcohol consumption hinders sound decision-making, leading individuals to take actions they wouldn’t normally consider if they were sober. These choices often result in regret once they have sobered up. Despite the known danger, many still choose to drive under the influence, ignoring the risks, as their thoughts are clouded by alcohol. It is widely recognized that driving while drunk is a poor decision, but this awareness is often overridden by impaired judgment caused by alcohol.

The impaired judgment caused by alcohol consumption makes drivers more susceptible to distractions while operating a vehicle. For example, they may be tempted to use their phone or send a text instead of keeping their eyes on the road. Even a small amount of alcohol can impact one’s concentration and judgment. While driving, there are numerous demands on a person’s attention, such as staying in the correct lane, monitoring other vehicles, managing speed, and following traffic signals. The consumption of alcohol significantly elevates the chance of a crash due to the reduced ability to pay attention to the road.

To operate a vehicle safely, even for brief trips, it’s crucial to have a sharp mind. Motorists must accurately assess the distance needed to stop and navigate turns without striking anything. Unexpected road hazards, such as another driver’s sudden lane change, adverse weather, or fallen debris, may demand a prompt response. Maintaining a clear head and being alert helps you stay vigilant of your surroundings. Alcohol impairs this capability.

2. Lack of Coordination and Slow Reaction Times

Alcohol consumption impairs the body’s ability to respond quickly. This slows down reaction time, increasing the risk of car accidents as you cannot react as fast as you would without alcohol in your system. For instance, if another driver cuts you off suddenly, you may be more likely to hit them because of impaired reaction time, making it difficult to think and respond fast enough to hit the brakes. According to Science Daily, even small amounts of alcohol can slow down reaction time enough to make driving dangerous. Alcohol-influenced brains take longer to process situations and respond to them, making it challenging to react fast enough to avoid a collision, such as if an animal suddenly crosses the road or a pedestrian steps into the road.

The consumption of alcohol not only affects reaction time, but also impairs reflexes and hinders motor skills such as coordination of the hands, feet, and eyes. These coordination skills are essential for safe driving. Operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol poses a threat to you and anyone in your vicinity. Alcohol can impair your judgment, causing you to be unaware of coordination issues such as difficulty standing upright, unsteadiness while standing, or trouble walking. You may also not realize that you are having difficulty inserting the key into the ignition.

3. Alcohol Abuse Impairs Vision

Clear vision is essential for drivers, but excessive alcohol consumption can impair visual acuity. Drinking can cause blurred vision and, in some cases, uncontrolled eye movements. Losing partial control of eye movement makes it unsafe to drive. Vision impairment affects the ability to judge distances between vehicles on the road. Alcohol abuse can lead to a loss of peripheral vision, which is crucial for safe driving. The greater the alcohol consumption, the more likely it is for vision to be impaired.

4. Increased Chances of Having an Accident

According to the CDC, drunk driving or driving under the influence (DUI) is a factor in one-third of all vehicle fatalities in the US. Even sober drivers are at risk when someone is operating a vehicle while impaired. The US Department of Transportation reports that drivers with higher blood alcohol content (BAC) are 7 times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than a sober driver. Impairment sets in long before it becomes noticeable and well before reaching the legal limit for BAC. A small amount of alcohol can impair judgment and vision, depending on factors such as gender, weight, and others. Therefore, just because a person is not “legally” drunk, it does not mean it is safe for them to drive. The only way to protect yourself and others from the dangers of drunk driving is to refrain from driving after consuming any alcohol.

5. Legal Ramifications of Drinking and Driving

Driving under the influence of alcohol not only poses a threat to your safety and the safety of others, but it can also have legal consequences. If you are pulled over for suspected DUI or DWI, a police officer may request that you take a field sobriety test to evaluate your motor skills and judgment. If you fail the test, you may be asked to take a breathalyzer or BAC test. Failing the BAC test can result in a night in jail and charges for DUI or DWI. Penalties for drinking and driving have increased in all states and can vary. If you cause an accident while driving drunk, the penalties are more severe, and even stricter if someone is injured or killed.

Drinking and driving not only pose a threat to yourself and others but also incurs additional financial penalties. Besides the cost of bail and legal fees, you may also face fees for towing, vehicle storage, and mandatory DUI training. Your insurance premiums can also increase significantly following a DUI arrest. It may also become difficult to rent a car or even enter certain countries if you have an alcohol-related driving conviction on your record.

Final Thoughts on the Dangers of Drunk Driving

The risks of driving under the influence of alcohol far outweigh any potential benefits. It’s already challenging enough to drive safely when you’re sober, and drinking can only worsen the situation, putting not only yourself but also other road users in peril. Choose wisely, and don’t drive drunk.

When you're ready, we're here to listen.

Free & Confidential Alcohol Abuse Hotline

Medically Reviewed By:

Robert Gerchalk

Robert is our health care professional reviewer of this website. He worked for many years in mental health and substance abuse facilities in Florida, as well as in home health (medical and psychiatric), and took care of people with medical and addictions problems at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He has a nursing and business/technology degrees from The Johns Hopkins University.

Our Mission

Our goal is to raise awareness for alcoholism. As recovering alcoholics ourselves we know how hard it is to find reliable, and free resources to help yourself or a loved one. This website does just that. If you want to talk, getting help for alcoholism is only a phone call away. Our free alcohol abuse hotline is available 24/7.

Recent Posts:

Helpful Information:

Understanding Alcoholism

This guide on understanding alcoholism for families today will help you in your quest to find solutions and get your loved one the help they need.

Questions or Feedback?