Intoxicated Driving… Underestimating How Drunk We Are

Intoxicated Driving… Underestimating How Drunk We Are

Drunk driving accounts for close to 30% of all fatal car accidents in the U.S.

Researchers at Cambridge University in the U.K. recently sought to understand why so many people drive when intoxicated.

Could it be that humans are generally unable to determine their level of intoxication after drinking?

The study, published in Harm Reduction Journal, examined that question by studying 90 participants with an average age of 24.

Study participants were split into two groups, a study, and a control group, with both groups drinking either beer or wine or both until they reached a blood-alcohol level of 0.11%. Those in the study group were told when they had exceeded the legal driving limit, which was set at 0.05% (the U.S. standard to legally drive is 0.08). The control group participants were not told when they had reached their limit.

Researchers monitored each participant using breathalyzers – asking each person to estimate their blood-alcohol levels at each measurement.

Roughly 53% of participants believed they had reached their legal limit when in fact they had already exceeded it.

Predictably, the study team also reported that the ability of those in the study to estimate their blood-alcohol levels accurately declined the drunker they got.

Why does this matter?

Determining fitness to drive after drinking is generally left to individual drivers. This study demonstrates that many drivers are incapable of accurately making that determination.

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