How Alcohol Affects Driving Ability

Image: Pixabay via Pexels.Com

Image: Pixabay via Pexels.Com

“Drink responsibly”. “Don’t drink and drive”. “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk”.

These are some of the many phrases that have been repeated endlessly on television, radio, and even online in advertisements. Ask anyone and they’ll agree with you that combining drinking and driving is one of the most terrible things a person could do.

In some countries, it’s even a common practice for bartenders to confiscate car keys from drunk customers to ensure that they don’t end up behind the steering wheel of a motor vehicle.

What happens if you ask people why it's bad? Does anyone really the technical reasons why automobiles and drunk human beings do not mix?

Well, by the end of this article, you will be able to tell people why.

The simple answer is that alcohol compromises your ability as a person to operate a motor vehicle, but let’s take a deeper look into what happens to your body when you drink, and how that translates to a reduction in your driving ability.


Limited Attention

Operating any sort of motor vehicle, be it a car, motorcycle, or even a farm tractor requires your undivided attention. This is undebatable, because you are essentially in a steel box moving forward at a rate of speed that could cause damage to any thing or any person in your path.

As an automotive college student, you may already know by now that applying the breaks even at full force will still require a long distance before your vehicle comes to a complete halt, and that is assuming that 100% of your attention is on the road in front of you.

When alcohol is consumed by the body, the mind’s ability to pay attention becomes incredibly limited. Depending on your blood alcohol level, there may even be periods of time where you blackout completely and have zero knowledge of what is happening to you in the present.

While this may sometimes result in funny stories your friends will tell you the following morning when you wake up with a hangover, it wouldn’t be so funny if you woke up in a hospital bed being told that you caused property damage, injury or even death while driving drunk and didn’t even realise what you were doing at the time.


Compromised Judgement and Emotions

This risk is compounded by the fact that while under the influence of alcohol, people tend experience exaggerated emotions. As you know, some people are called ‘sad drunks’ for becoming incredibly emo when drunk, while others get quiet or even mad for no reason at all, trying to pick fights!

Emotions cloud our ability to make sound judgements, and can sometimes result in us taking excessive risks. Even on a normal day in Malaysia with sober drivers all around us, we’ve experienced all sorts of risky behaviours on the road; imagine how much worse it would be if motorists around us were also under the influence of alcohol!


Reduced Response Time

A short attention span. Unstable emotions. A reduced ability to make split-second judgement calls, which as you know, happens everytime we take our motor vehicles out on the road. The ability to respond quickly to changes and make these quick decisions could mean the difference between life and death, and alcohol in your bloodstream takes away your ability to make them wisely.


Loss of muscle control

Assuming you’re able to register these sudden changes mentally, for instance if a car was to suddenly cut into your lane or if a motorcyclist in front of you were to suddenly lose his balance and fall, the muscles in your arms and legs may also find it difficult to move as needed to turn the wheel or to apply force to your brake pedal.

Think about it: When you or your friends are tipsy or drunk, it becomes very difficult to even walk in a straight line and maintain your balance.

When behind the wheel of a car, your mind isn’t the only thing that needs to be on point and ready to act; your body must be ready as well!


Driver’s Vision Becomes Reduced

All of the points above already show you how dangerous driving can be when under the influence of alcohol. But what all of those points have in common is the assumption that you can even see the road in front of you with your own eyes.

On top of all of those issues mentioned, alcohol in your bloodstream can also affect your ability to see the road in front of you. Can you imagine that? How can you react to changes in traffic, or even make the correct turns to get to your destination, if your vision is blur and you can’t see anything at all?


Driving Drunk Is Never Worth It

Even if you think you’re not drunk, even if you think you’re an amazing driver, the risk of driving while under the influence of alcohol is simply not worth it. Leave your car in the parking lot where it's safe, and pick it up the next day when you are sober. With the wide availability of ridesharing apps, there truly is NO excuse whatsoever to drive while while under the influence of alcohol.