The slightest amount of alcohol can impact a person’s cognitive abilities, especially once they attempt to drive. But how, exactly, does alcohol cause impairment, and what does a driver see from their perspective behind the wheel? Kansas City’s legal professionals at Peterson & Associates, P.C. provide some details you may want to know about drunk driving and potential accidents.

How Alcohol Causes Impairment

When a person drinks, they’re consuming what is technically called ethyl alcohol. After it’s broken down during fermentation and distillation, it turns to alcohol. Alcohol impacts the brain’s receptor sites for neurotransmitters, including GABA, glutamate, and dopamine. It also has negative effects on the central nervous system. 

Consequently, an individual on alcohol experiences reduced brain function, which diminishes abilities such as muscle coordination, reasoning, and thinking. Typically, they may also exhibit a loss of inhibition and overall impulse control. This is a deadly combination once they get behind the wheel, because suddenly they believe, as one example, that they can make it through an intersection on a yellow light without a problem. 

What a Drunk Driver “Sees” 

A person under the influence of alcohol suffers from compromised visual ability. This means they have trouble with depth perception and focus. Seemingly normal aspects of vehicle operation—such as identifying vehicles braking in front of them or traffic signals—are now distorted images. They also experience changes in light and contrast, which also makes it more difficult to notice a traffic light changing or a reflective stop sign. 

What’s more, because of reduced cognitive function and reduced peripheral vision, it may take longer for certain situations to register in a drunk driver’s mind because they no longer have a full field of vision. So while they might “see” you up ahead, they’ve lost the ability to gauge the speed at which they’re approaching you or the distance between the two of you. A typical blind spot becomes increasingly larger.

Additionally, many impaired motorists fail to turn on their headlights at night, can’t orient their vehicle to stay in the proper lane, and display other telltale signs that help you identify drunk driving

No matter what, don’t engage them. Simply call 911 and provide a description of the vehicle and your location. But if you were involved in an accident with a drunk driver, make sure to get prompt medical attention for your injuries, request a copy of the police report, and contact an attorney right away. You deserve to protect yourself

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