Driven to Distraction: The Psychology of Drunk Driving

The warnings are there, the news too—yet many people, especially teenagers, drive drunk knowing that this could have serious consequences. It’s only when they get involved in an accident that they realize the cost of their actions. That is, however, if they live to regret it. Impairment doesn’t depend on the type of alcohol a person drank, but rather the number of glasses or shots they took within a certain period. Neither coffee nor exercise could help them sober up, but time.

Even a Second of Distraction Can Be Dangerous

Distraction is when people are engaged in a specific task—in this case, driving—and find themselves suddenly thinking or doing other things not related to that task. When the mind wanders, some people catch themselves drifting and are able to reorient back to what they’re doing. In terms of drunk driving, however, reorienting could be more difficult because of the influence of alcohol.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)

BAC is the percentage of alcohol in the blood. Law enforcement use this to determine whether a driver is impaired or not. Applicable to all states, nobody should be operating a motor vehicle if with a BAC of 0.08% or higher. Depending on the level of percentage, here’s what it can do the mind and body:

  • 0.02% – Altered mood, causing the decreased ability or inability to multitask and track moving objects or anything related to visual function

  • 0.05% – Loss of small-muscle control and lowered alertness, reducing body coordination and response to emergency driving

  • 0.08% – Impaired memory, reasoning, and self-control, leading to poor perception and concentration

  • 0.10% – Slowed thinking and poor coordination, reducing the ability to stay on lane and brake whenever necessary

  • 0.15% – High loss of muscle control, causing major impairment in attention, vehicle control, and auditory and visual processing

MADD understand how drunk drinking can affect victims and their families. Join us in our move to keep roads safe and provide support to people affected by it. Visit our homepage to know how you can help.