Alcohol and Driving

None for the Road

The production and distribution of alcohol is a major industry in most countries, providing many jobs and large revenues for governments through excise duties and taxes. Many people are attracted to the effects alcohol has on the human body and it is the most common legal (in most countries) drug of choice.

There is, however, a fine line between the enjoyment of alcohol and the burden it places on society through over indulgence, addiction and binge drinking which often leads to crime, violence and road traffic accidents.

Did you know?

  • 11 People are killed by drink drivers on UK roads every week. [1]
  • On average 3,500 people are killed or seriously injured due to drink driving in the UK each year. [2]
  • Last year over 90,000 people were convicted of drink driving in the UK alone. [2]
  • In the UK fatalities resulting from drink drive accidents fell by 18 per cent from 560 in 2006 to 460 in 2007, whilst seriously injured casualties fell by 11 per cent from 1,970 to 1,760. Slight casualties, however, rose by 4 per cent from 11,840 to 12,260. Total casualties rose by 1 per cent from 14,370 to 14,480.[3]
  • Drinking and driving occurs across a wide range of age groups but particularly among young men aged 17-29 in both casualties and positive breath tests following a collision.
  • People under 30 have the most drink-related collisions, with 20 to 24-year-olds being the worst offenders.
  • In the UK about 50% of drink drive fatalities occur between 10.00pm and 4.00am on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.[4]

Drinking and driving is a very real danger and poses a very high risk to human life. Yet so many people continue to do it. It is well known that alcohol gives a person a false sense of security and confidence, slows down reaction times and impairs a persons ability to observe their surroundings.

BAC levels and the predictable effects on driving skills



  • Some loss of judgment
  • Relaxation
  • Slight body warmth
  • Altered mood
  • Decline in visual functions (rapid tracking of a moving target)
  • Decline in ability to perform two tasks at the same time (divided attention)


  • Exaggerated behavior
  • May have loss of small muscle control (focusing of eyes etc)
  • Impaired judgment
  • Lowered alertness
  • Inhibitions become lowered
  • Reduced co-ordination
  • Reduced ability to track moving objects
  • Increased difficulty in steering
  • Rapid response to emergency driving situations reduced


  • Muscle co-ordination is reduced further reduced (balance, speech, vision, reaction times are all reduced)
  • Judgment, self control, reasoning and memory are impaired
  • Increased difficulty in detecting danger
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Short term memory loss
  • Speed control is affected
  • Reduced information processing ability (signal detection, visual search, danger perception)
  • Impaired perception of surroundings


  • Obvious deterioration of reaction times and self control
  • Slurred speech, poor co-ordination, slowed thinking, lowered inhibitions
  • Visibly impaired
  • Reduced ability to maintain lane position (difficulty steering)
  • Reaction times greatly reduced
  • False sense of control
  • Overall ability to control vehicle and react to surroundings greatly reduced


  • Muscle control greatly reduced
  • Vomiting may occur (unless a tolerance for alcohol has been built up over time or a person has reached this alcohol level slowly)
  • Major loss of balance and co-ordination
  • Substantial impairment of overall vehicle control (reaction times, speed control, visual, auditory and information processing greatly reduced)


[1] Brake - The Road Safety Charity

[2] GMP

[3] Department for Transport

[4] Denney, R C (1997) None for the road, Kent, Shaw & Sons Ltd

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