Drinking and driving is a dangerous combination.
There are two main consequences for alcohol consumption followed by driving: the changes that alcohol causes in your body, which impair your ability to drive.
The legal effects of being caught intoxicated while driving or causing an accident while driving drunk.
In this article, we will discuss these consequences in detail to provide you with the information about what the effects of alcohol on driving are.
How Alcohol Affects the Body
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant.
That means that it has the general effect of slowing down the body’s functions.
This includes mental effects, like slower reaction time, and physical effects, like a slower heart rate.
People who consume a significant amount of alcohol feel sleepy because of this depressant effect.
The word “depressant” does not mean that people who drink feel depressed- it is a medical term referring to the slowdown.
In terms of driving, this has several specific consequences.
First of all, the reduced reaction time makes it harder for intoxicated drivers to react to changes in the driving environment.
This might include new obstacles, such as other cars, people in the road, or weather as well as curves in the road, traffic signals, and the presence of Police.
Alcohol also has a tendency to reduce the driver’s inhibitions and natural sense of caution.
That means you will be more likely to take risks, so your judgement is different relative to when you have no alcohol in your system.
The combination of a driver that is more likely to take risks and slower to react can be deadly, and these effects tend to intensify with more alcohol.
Alcohol also reduces concentration and increases fatigue – drink drivers are more susceptible to distractions and can fall asleep at the wheel.
In addition, drinking can distort the vision, making it harder to see important obstacles or road changes.
The fact that the brain is operating slower than normal means the complex task of driving is more difficult to do properly, considering the element of multitasking present in driving.
It is harder to maintain focus on every part of driving, so drunk drivers may neglect some aspects of driving.
Furthermore, not only is the brain slower to react, but the body itself is slower. So there are two sources of slowness, and they both give drunk drivers a much lower ability to react to the road.
The net combination of physical and mental side effects of alcohol on driving are dangerous.
Physically, drivers who drink have a harder time seeing and reacting to the road.
Mentally, drunk drivers have difficulty processing what they see and cannot properly judge risks or make good choices.
That might lead to, for example, overestimating their own ability to drive.
All of these create ripe conditions for crashes and accidents.
They might take the form of crashing into an immobile obstacle, like a tree or guard rail, or colliding with another car, a pedestrian, or a cyclist.
Drunk drivers generally cannot accurately evaluate their own fitness to drive, so even knowing how drinking affects your driving might not prevent you from driving after drinking.
The crashes that result from alcohol tend to be more deadly than other kinds of accidents.
This is because the impaired judgement, perception, and motor control of drunk drivers means they do not do a good job at avoiding crashes.
So, for example, they are less likely to break or swerve to avoid something, and therefore will strike things head-on and at full speed.
A more alert driver is more likely to be able to at least try to avoid a crash.
Furthermore, drinking more means the effects of drinking are stronger, and therefore the risk of a major accident are also larger.
Legal Effects of Drinking and Driving
Alcohol and driving do not just cause problems for your safety.
Even if you do not get into an accident, an encounter with the Police can have legal consequences.
The law in New South Wales is not kind to drunk drivers.
This is because the elevated risk of accidents that cause property damage, injury, or death is so meaningful.
As a result, there are strict laws that govern how much you can drink when you drive and what happens if you drink too much.
The first thing to understand is the way the Police measure intoxication.
There is a breath test and if need be, a blood test.
Both of them measure the same thing- the concentration of alcohol in the blood.
The legal limit for a full licence holder is 0.05 grams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.
That is also about the point where your reaction time begins to slow down significantly – it is the first level at which the effects of alcohol have a serious impact on driving skill.
The consequences for breaking the law, if an officer tests you and finds that you are above the legal limit, are serious and they also escalate if you have multiple offenses in your past.
First of all license disqualification. Losing your license is a major impediment to your life, and that’s the point. It is a huge penalty, especially for people who use their car to commute, as many Australians do.
A disqualification, suspension or cancellation of your license is disruptive to every part of your every-day life.
It is hard to imagine, until it actually happens, but driving yourself around is integral to the daily routine.
That is only one of the possible penalties.
Further legal consequences include fines, community service, gaol sentences. This is more than just a license disqualification that makes your life inconvenient – this can change the course of your life.
A gaol sentence can derail your family and career.
The bottom line is that drinking and driving carries many different risks, and all of them are severe.
Even if the likelihood of getting into an accident on any given trip is low, it is still higher than if you were sober, and the consequences are much worse.
It is always better to use a designated driver or come up with a plan to get home than to run the risk.