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Safety on the road: Alcohol's cumulative effect on drivers

People who are drinking alcohol often think they aren't as affected by it as they really are. Many times, they think that they are fine to try to drive home. Unfortunately, they are putting themselves and others at risk of being involved in a crash. There is also the possibility of facing a drunk driving charge if they are stopped by police officers.

If you are out drinking, make sure you plan ahead so you have a way home or another safe place to sleep. This can help to avoid facing legal troubles or injuries. Even if you think you can make it home safely, you shouldn't get behind the wheel if you've been drinking.

Impairment can seem subtle to the drinker

Alcohol impacts many people by decreasing their ability to accurately judge situations. This can make it more difficult for them to realize they are intoxicated. It can also affect the way they react to the road, which can be deadly. 

Changes in coordination and attention

Your motor skills can be profoundly affected by alcohol. You might not be able to react to stimuli appropriately because reaction times are slowed by alcohol impairment. Concentration is also affected by alcohol, so you might not be able to keep your attention on the road when you drive. These factors can make it difficult for a driver to remain in their own lane, to respond to traffic signals and to be mindful of other vehicles and pedestrians.

More alcohol means less safety

While the impact of alcohol can be noticeable when the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is as little as .02 percent, the legal limit for most drivers is .08 percent. By that point, the effects of the alcohol are pronounced. It's not possible to significantly change the time it takes for alcohol to work its way through the system; instead, only time can reduce the BAC and the effects of the alcohol.

For a person accused of driving drunk, BAC measurement usually plays a big part in the case. BAC is determined using a chemical test. Initially, a law enforcement officer will ask you to take a breath test if they have reason to believe you are impaired; a blood test may follow.

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