Despite the sincere efforts of law enforcement to deter drunk driving, intoxicated motorists continue to be a danger. For example, the Indiana University Public Policy Institute recently found that fatal collisions involving alcohol use rose by 2% between 2016 and 2020.
Therefore, it is important to understand how hard drinks can affect blood alcohol concentration. Such information can help drivers make safer decisions before taking to the road.
Low to moderate impairment
A BAC of 0.02% can result in a slight loss of judgment. A person also experiences feelings of relaxation, slight body warmth and an altered mood. Even at this low level, alcohol impairs the ability to perform tasks like tracking a moving object or multitasking. As a result, one’s driving ability starts to decline.
At a BAC of 0.05%, an individual may display exaggerated behavior. Small-muscle control and coordination also diminish, so basic functions like focusing the eyes become difficult. A driver would likely have difficulties steering and responding to emergency road conditions.
In addition, one’s judgment typically becomes more unreliable. A driver at this level might act recklessly due to decreased inhibitions and an increased sense of well-being.
Legally impaired BAC level
Once one’s BAC reaches 0.08%, Indiana law considers the person to be in a state of intoxication and unable to drive safely. Muscle coordination deteriorates significantly. Balance, speech, vision, reaction time and hearing all decline. Detecting danger becomes more challenging, and judgment, self-control, reasoning and memory suffer.
At a BAC of 0.10%, reaction time and coordination decline even further. Slurred speech is common as thinking processes slow down. Maintaining lane position and braking appropriately become more challenging for a driver.
With a BAC of 0.15%, bodily control often decreases rapidly, which is why vomiting can occur unless the person has developed a high tolerance for alcohol. Safely controlling a vehicle is practically impossible because of a reduced capacity for attention, vision and hearing.
Factors that can influence alcohol’s effects
Alcohol’s effects vary widely due to factors like body weight, metabolism and tolerance. For example, individuals with lower body weight might feel alcohol’s effects more quickly and intensely.
Also, eating a meal can slow alcohol absorption, so drinking on an empty stomach can quickly raise one’s BAC. Of particular note is the fact that drugs interact unpredictably with alcohol and can potentially intensify its impact. Anyone taking medications should review the label to understand how the medicine and alcohol mix.
Grasping the effects of alcohol helps motorists and their passengers make informed choices about drinking. Regardless of the BAC, alcohol impairs judgment, coordination and cognitive abilities. Ensuring the safety of oneself and others requires practicing responsible drinking and refraining from driving under the influence.