Alcohol Related Car Accidents

If you are 21 years or older in California, driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher is enough to get arrested for driving under the influence. Surprisingly, reaching a BAC of 0.08% is not very difficult and most people are over the limit long before they even realize that they are drunk. This number may seem arbitrary, but there are good reasons for these limitations. For better or worse, alcohol plays an important role in our society. As more and more vehicles are on the road, the amount of alcohol consumed before getting behind the wheel has to be limited due to its effects on the body and how this can cause an accident on the road.

Alcohol is a depressant, which means it ultimately slows down communication between the brain and body, lowering response time and coordination. As alcohol in your bloodstream increases, you think and react to stimuli much slower than you normally would and the brains ability to coordinate movement between your limbs becomes impaired. Since driving is almost entirely a combination of thinking, coordination, and reacting to stimuli, alcohol in the bloodstream poses a problem. In fact, even just one beer or glass of wine can affect coordination, depending on the percent alcohol by volume of the drink. Once the amount of alcohol in the body reaches dangerous levels, fatigue begins to set in as well, causing even worse coordination.

Coordination and reaction time are not the only parts of the body affected by alcohol. One aspect of drinking that people enjoy most is alcohol’s ability to cause feelings of elation inhibit shame and caution, sometimes resulting in improved social experiences and a sense of invincibility. While behind the wheel, however, caution and care are required to keep everyone on the road safe. Alcohol tends to make people want to take risks, and this often leads to erratic drivers who put others around them in jeopardy. Combine this desire for risk-taking and invincibility with poor coordination and slow reaction times, and a car accident is inevitable. All it takes is one bad decision, like thinking there is enough room to merge when there isn’t, and a collision forces multiple drivers to lose control.

In 2013 in the United States, 65% of auto accidents caused by drunk driving involved one of the drivers being under the influence at a BAC of 0.08% or higher, which is the legal limit in most states. This shows that even driving with an alcohol limit under 0.08% is dangerous as the communication between the brain and body begins to be impaired with the first traces of alcohol in the blood. As more alcohol is consumed, the brain loses control of the body, resulting in less coordination with each drink. Caution decreases and feelings of invincibility increase, causing drivers under the influence to make poor decisions and misjudge traffic even while their response times decrease. Often, accidents happen before drunk drivers even realized a dangerous situation was about to occur.

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