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What impact does a low amount of alcohol have on driving ability?

Confidence is generally thought of as a good character trait to possess. And yet, as with anything, too much confidence can cause problems, such as when Pottsville residents think they can operate a vehicle after having a little too much to drink.

It is commonly thought that, in order to have an accident caused by a drunk driver, the motorist is typically over the legal limit of 0.08. In reality, however, even minor amounts of alcohol can have dramatic impacts on a person's ability to drive safely.

Even at a blood alcohol level of 0.02, or two drinks, a person experiences some loss of judgment and an altered mood. This can result in a decline in visual functions and a decline in a person's ability to perform two tasks at the same time.

At a level of 0.05, which is about three drinks, the person experiences reduced coordination and a reduced ability to track moving objects. The motorist may also have difficulty steering and a reduced response in emergency driving situations. These effects on driving correspond with the impaired judgment and lowered alertness that comes with the higher blood alcohol level.

Finally, at the legal limit of 0.08, the person's concentration, perception and information processing capability are all impacted. The individual can also experience short-term memory loss and problems with speed control.

Of course, the decline in driving ability only continues to get worse the more drunk a person gets. However, the above discussion demonstrates that a drunk driver is not just someone who is severely drunk, as even low to moderate amounts of alcohol can have a dramatic impact on driving ability.

Source: Centers for Disease Control, "Injury prevention & control: Motor vehicle safety," accessed on Dec. 27, 2015

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