How Alcohol Impairs Drivers

Attorney Bill Berenson has concentrated his almost 40-year law practice exclusively on auto accident recovery in Dallas, Fort Worth and the surrounding communities. He is well known for his knowledge about drunk driving crashes and his advocacy for DWI accident victims.

Berenson Injury Law is an avid supporter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and is an annual sponsor of the Fort Worth Walk Like MADD and other events that raise funds and awareness for this important nonprofit organization. He is a MADD-approved attorney for DWI crashes and attended the MADD seminar for attorneys to teach the latest techniques about handling these cases.

To best represent our many clients whose lives have been forever changed because of a drunk driver, we have thoroughly studied the affects of alcohol on driving and remain up to date on the latest research. More than 10,000 people die every year in drunk driving accidents, accounting for nearly one-third of traffic fatalities. Thousands more sustain life-altering injuries.

Why is alcohol one of the primary factors in so many deadly auto crashes? Alcohol is a depressant that impedes virtually every aspect of driving, including vision, coordination and reaction time.

Alcohol Affects a Driver’s Detection and Response to Roadway Issues

A frustrating myth is that alcohol can make a person a more careful driver. Under this flawed logic, the drunk driver is more attentive to avoid an accident or a DWI. A drunk driver may feel confident in her ability to maneuver her car safely back to home — hold the wheel steady, go the speed limit and otherwise be extra careful.

This may work under ideal driving conditions, but in reality, drivers are constantly confronted with unanticipated situations to which they must react to avoid a collision.

A sober driver may be able to quickly slam on the brakes to avoid an obstacle or adjust steering to accommodate a particularly sharp curve. But alcohol diminishes a drunk driver’s ability to perceive these everyday roadway impediments and to effectively respond.

Alcohol transforms common encounters, such as a stalled vehicle, a red light or another driver pulling into the intersection, into serious emergencies.

Even at legal limits, alcohol impairs critical driving skills, including

  • Coordination: A tipsy person may wobble as he walks, spill drinks and have difficulty picking stuff up. Now imagine that person behind the wheel. Alcohol affects hand-eye coordination and balance that can hinder the performance of such rote tasks as turning the steering wheel and moving the foot from accelerator to brake pedal.

  • Reaction time: Alcohol delays the time between detecting a potential problem and taking corrective action. That split second delay can turn a close call into a catastrophic accident. In a recent peer-reviewed study, researchers found that alcohol disrupts the region of the brain responsible for error processing that is necessary for safe driving. As intoxication increased, test subjects reacted more slowly and made fewer successful decisions.

  • Eye tracking: During a field sobriety test, the police officer typically moves a pen slowly in front of the suspect’s face and directs him to follow with his eyes to test for a condition called horizontal gaze nystagmus. HGN describes involuntary eye jerking that occurs as the gaze moves to the side. Ordinarily when driving, a person’s eyes constantly scan the road ahead and take in objects flying by in the peripheral vision. Alcohol enhances HGN, which impedes the ability to identify problems as the vehicle travels at high speed.

  • Vision and depth perception: Eyesight is so crucial to drive safely that a Texas driver’s license indicates whether the holder wears glasses or contact lenses. Alcohol causes both blurred vision and altered depth perception. Therefore, a drunk driver may fail to see an obstruction or accurately determine how far an object is.

Objectively, no sane person would decide to drive under the conditions described above. But alcohol also inhibits a driver’s good judgment, making it more likely that an intoxicated driver will get behind the wheel.

If You Were Injured by a Drunk Driver, Call Our Dallas-Fort Worth DUI Accident Lawyer Today

Berenson Injury Law is well known for our advocacy of drunk driving victims and for our determination to pursue the maximum possible recovery.Schedule a free consultation with our North Texas DWI and DUI accident lawyer to build a strong case for recovery.

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