Adults must walk a fine line when consuming alcohol. Though some adults may feel impaired after a single drink, many others can still drive safely after enjoying an alcoholic beverage with dinner or during a gathering with friends. Despite that, it's important that adults behave responsibly and recognize that even a relatively small amount of alcohol can impair their judgment.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers typically experience some loss of judgment and altered mood even when their blood alcohol concentration is .02, which is well below the legal limit to operate an automobile.
When that BAC rises to .05, which also is well below the legal limit, drivers can expect to experience a loss of small-muscle control, a reduction in alertness and even difficulty steering. And it's not just alcohol that can affect drivers, as the NHTSA warns motorists taking prescription medications or new medicines to avoid driving until they realize how a given drug affects their judgment, coordination and reaction time.
With so much on the line each time they get behind the wheel, drivers have much to gain from recognizing the physical and mental signs that suggest they should avoid driving after consuming alcohol or taking medication.
Prescription medications and other medicines can produce a host of side effects, and these are generally listed on product packaging or within the materials people receive when picking up their prescriptions. The NHTSA notes that even over-the-counter medications can cause side effects such as drowsiness, nausea and blurred vision, each of which can make it unsafe to operate a motor vehicle.
After consuming alcohol, individuals can look for these physical symptoms, the presence of which suggests they are not fit to drive:
¥ Slower reflexes
¥ Delayed reaction time
¥ Slurred speech
¥ Lack of coordination, including clumsiness, stumbling or a general feeling that their balance is off
It can be easy for individuals who have been drinking to make light of mental indicators that suggest they should not drive. Jokes about forgetting how they spent the night might elicit a laugh, but forgetfulness is a key indicator that someone has consumed too much alcohol to drive safely. Additional mental indicators include:
¥ Feelings of confusion
¥ Difficulty understanding complex ideas
¥ A loss of inhibition
¥ Delayed realizations
Alcohol and medication can adversely affect a person's ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Recognition of the physical and mental signs of impairment can increase the likelihood that drivers avoid getting behind the wheel after taking medication or consuming alcohol.