Impaired driving refers to operating a vehicle while being drowsy, distracted, or under the influence of intoxicating substances and medications. The focus of this article will be impaired driving due to alcohol. According to a study by the International Transport Forum, there are approximately 273000 alcohol-related road fatalities worldwide every year.
What Happens When You Drink and Drive?
Even a little alcohol can and will impact your driving ability. It will increase your chances of being in a collision. To drive safely, you must focus, make swift decisions, and react wisely in unforeseen situations. Drinking alcohol affects these abilities and therefore increases the risk to your life and others on the road. Alcohol consumption can affect driving in these ways:
Impairs Vision and Hearing:
For driving, vision is the most important sense, followed by hearing. Alcohol consumption can lead to blurry vision, double vision, and impaired peripheral vision (tunnel vision). This can make driving (especially at night) really challenging. The legal limit of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in England is 0.08%, but vision starts getting affected at as low as 0.02% BAC. The perception of brightness and contrast gets reduced by 30% at 0.05% BAC. You might have difficulty perceiving stop lights because of this. Alcohol and other intoxicants can affect the ability to distinguish colours, and therefore make it challenging to read and understand traffic signs, signals, and markings on the roads.
Alcohol also alters the composition and volume of the inner ear fluid, which can result in hearing loss. When blood vessels swell due to alcohol, the resultant increase in blood flow within the inner ear leads to tinnitus or ringing in the ears. Sharp hearing is essential for detecting problems with the engine and emergency vehicle situations.
Slows Down Reaction Time:
The amount of time a person takes to respond to an occurrence on the road is called reaction time. Many driving situations need swift reactions. People generally have a reasonably fast reaction time. However, under the influence of alcohol, the ability to react slows down. If the BAC is 0.08%, reaction time will slow down by 120 milliseconds, which can mean going an additional 12 feet before an appropriate reaction (on an interstate highway). The reaction time slows down further with the increase in BAC level. A slower reaction time makes accidents more likely.
Affects Reasoning and Judgement:
Drivers should be able to judge traffic gaps for crossing lanes and taking the right exits. Alcohol can make it difficult to judge the speed, distance, and potential movements of other vehicles on the road. Because of intoxication, the tendency toward risky behaviours will increase. Loss of inhibitions and judgement starts with a BAC as low as 0.02%. Impaired reasoning and loss of judgement can give rise to dangerous situations.
Reduces Muscle Coordination and Control:
By interfering with the brain’s pathways of communication, alcohol makes it harder to coordinate and move with control. Poor muscle coordination and control can result in substantial loss of vehicle control. Alcohol consumption can also cause dizziness, loss of balance, and blackouts. These effects can prove disastrous, especially in the case of HGVs.
How Alcohol Can Affect Your Career as a Professional Driver
Alcohol impairs recognition, judgement, and reaction – all essential requirements of driving. Even if there are no collisions and mishaps, driving performance is significantly affected. It can negatively impact your career as a professional driver. In the transport and logistics sector, driving after drinking can lead to the loss of valuable stock and tremendous collateral damage. One major drunk driving incident can potentially ruin the reputation and career of a professional driver.
Driving under the influence of alcohol can lead to penalties like imprisonment, a heavy fine, and even a driving ban. The driving ban can be for a year, 3 years, or even 5 years, depending on the frequency and severity of the offence. Driving disqualification due to being charged as guilty in a drunk driving case may also necessitate an extended driving test before the licence is returned. Employers will be able to see the conviction on the licence. This can make it harder to secure or keep a job. Companies that hire professional drivers conduct extensive background checks and drunk-driving incidents will affect the chances of employment. The national roads constitute the ‘workplace’ of logistics drivers and therefore due diligence is necessary.
Preventing Alcohol-Related Issues
Alcohol temporarily may numb negative feelings and elevate mood, but the detrimental effects of alcohol are not worth the temporary pleasure. Mental health and well-being can potentially play a big part in driving people towards drink & drugs. Issues will only fester if people try to ‘drown’ them with intoxicants. Mental health issues create an imbalance in the chemistry of the brain and increase the tendency of people to try and self-medicate with intoxicants.
Good logistics driver training and more specifically the Driver CPC aspect (that makes up a part of the HGV training package) offered here at 2 Start Ltd can prove helpful in avoiding the negative effects of alcohol and the dependence on it by making it easier to spot the signs of problematic situations early.
The online and classroom versions of Driver CPC courses include a module that focuses on mental health, well-being & driver behaviour. The module emphasises the necessity of taking care of mental health and provides information on symptoms (like mental apathy and altered behaviour) and possible routes of timely action. These comprehensive courses also contain information about healthy eating and protection from road-rage accidents.
It is advisable for people struggling with a drinking habit to get the required support from rehab for alcoholics. Centres like Rehab Guide can help acquire the necessary information about suitable treatment programs and good clinics. Abrupt cessation of alcohol consumption (especially in the case of people with heavy drinking habits) can cause seizures, delirium, heart palpitations, and an inability to focus. Alcohol recovery is a gradual process that needs expert advice and support.
The first step to recovery is actually admitting that there is a problem. Denial and offering justifications for drinking habits will only delay the recovery process and worsen the issues. Conducting a thorough self-assessment might prove useful for reaching acceptance.
A better understanding of the link between alcohol addiction and impaired driving will help in avoiding drunk-driving scenarios. Drivers with logistics training might be motivated to kick off the drinking habit completely. If you intend to drive professionally in the transport or logistics sector, you would do well by adopting a zero-tolerance approach toward alcohol on your own.