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How Exactly Does Alcohol Affect a Motor Vehicle Driver?

Alcohol has a long and complex history in the United States. In the early days of American colonization, a scarcity of sanitary drinking water led people to consume a wide array of alcoholic beverages frequently. Moreover, taverns, pubs, and other establishments that served alcohol played an important social role in our communities. While the country also experimented with temperance and prohibition, alcohol consumption remains interwoven into the fabric of society.

The United States also has a long-term love affair with the automobile. For decades now, Americans have used cars to experience freedom, while also choosing particular makes and models to express individuality. Without cars, many Americans would have a lower quality of life. But sometimes, people mix alcohol and automobiles, and the results can be catastrophic. In this blog post, we will discuss how alcohol affects motor vehicle drivers.

How Alcohol Affects the Body

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), when alcohol is ingested, it is absorbed into the bloodstream through the small intestine and stomach walls. While there is debate on the amount of alcohol that must be consumed to be dangerous, there is evidence that even a small amount of alcohol can affect the body. 

As the amount of alcohol consumed increases, the blood alcohol concentration increases and has a greater and greater impact on a person. Alcohol impairs thinking, reduces brain function, impairs muscle coordination, and impairs the ability to reason. It is hard to imagine any set of limitations that would be more harmful to a person’s ability to drive an automobile. Below are listed some of the classic ways in which alcohol can negatively affects a driver’s ability:

  • Impaired vision
  • The ability to rapidly focus is diminished.
  • Response time to stimuli, including dangers on the road, is increased (i.e., reaction time is increased)
  • Detection abilities are hampered.
  • Unjustified confidence which may lead to risky behavior.
  • Difficulty maintaining a lane.
  • Problems braking appropriately.
  • Drowsiness/Relaxation can cause a driver to fall asleep or lose awareness.
  • Reduced concentration

When driving while distracted or impaired, your chances of getting into an automobile accident are, of course, sharply increased. 

Why the Drunk Driving Issue Is Important

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), more than 388,000 injuries yearly result from drunk driving. In 2017, almost 11,000 people were killed. The organization states that every 90 seconds, a drunk driving crash causes injury. In 2019, 28 percent of traffic fatalities resulted from drunk driving.

How Society Has Responded

According to, the first drunk driving arrest occurred in London in 1897. However, the first DUI law was not passed in America until 1910. Moreover, little action was taken for many years to address the dangers of drunken driving. 

Real awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving did not become mainstream until the late 1970s and early 1980s. At that time, Mothers Against Drunk Driving was formed. Police agencies and lawmakers started to take notice of the issue. States began to raise the drinking age, lowering the permissible Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level allowed while driving, and increasing punishments for violators. These have all been important steps in trying to curb the dangers of mixing alcohol with driving.

Call with Questions

While society has taken many steps to address drunk driving, it is still a real problem. Every year thousands of people are killed and injured in DUI-related incidents. The experienced personal injury lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield are here to answer your questions and provide guidance in a free consultation. We handle automobile accident cases all across Oregon. We strongly believe that it is imperative to hold negligent drivers accountable for their actions so that society will be safer.