Required amount of time to complete: 25 minutes


SUBJECT 1: Effect Of Alcohol And Other Drugs On Driver Capabilities

Alcohol is a colorless, odorless, volatile, pungent drug that acts as a depressant. The effects of alcohol are a general depressing of the functions of the brain and body. Depressing of these functions begins at the first sip of alcohol. The only safe amount of alcohol to consume and then drive is none. Alcohol often makes the individual tired and drowsy. The more a person drinks, the less likely he or she is to stay awake and alert while driving. Driving after drinking increases the risk of bodily harm resulting from a collision and increase the probability of a greater injury than would have happened if you were driving sober.1

Drivers must understand that if they are tired and drowsy before driving, those feelings will be heightened after alcohol consumption. A carbonated alcohol drink is absorbed faster by the body because of the carbonation. This causes a faster absorption of the alcohol into the blood stream, which causes the effects on the brain and body to take affect sooner. If the driver drinks a carbonated alcoholic beverage, the effects will be faster as the alcohol is absorbed sooner and on the way to the brain2.

Alcohol is implicated in a very large number of road collisions because it leads to slow reflexes, problems with vision and a loss of self-control.

What is a Controlled Substance?

Controlled substances include narcotic drugs, barbiturates, model glue, and other stimulants whether taken by swallowing, by sniffing, by smoking, by injection, or by any other means.

Does alcohol affect the central nervous system?

Yes, alcohol affects the central nervous system by being a depressant.

Does alcohol affect the reaction times of a driver?

Yes, alcohol has a demonstrative affect on the reaction time of drivers. Impaired driver's reaction times often double in response to outside stimulus. The decision making process is slowed, as is the basic hand-eye coordination. A situation that a sober driver could handle and avoid easily becomes troublesome and critical to the impaired driver, while his response time labors. Reaction time is decreased with each drink, time that makes the difference between a crash and avoiding that crash3.

What are some of the effects of alcohol on the central nervous system?

  1. Impaired judgment. You think you can drive when you cannot.
  2. Impaired muscle coordination.
  3. Decreased peripheral vision, multiple vision, blurring.
  4. Dizziness and night vision impairment.
  5. Slowed complex reaction time. This factor particularly compromises an impaired driver's ability to respond in emergency or unanticipated situations.
  6. Increased drowsiness after the high, with the potential of unconsciousness, coma and death4.

What are some of the major organs of your body that alcohol affects and how?

  1. BRAIN. The brain lacks an interior system of veins and requires large amounts of oxygen, which is absorbed from the blood stream. This blood dispersed throughout the brain affects the brain in the following manner: the brain is affected with anything that the blood carries in it and the frontal lobe is the first part to be affected by alcohol. The frontal lobe is essential for driving a motor vehicle as the frontal lobe controls judgment, emotions, decision making and awareness. Driving a motor vehicle requires many coordinated functions, which are adversely impacted by alcohol and other drugs5.

  2. STOMACH. Alcohol consumption on an empty stomach can cause a peptic ulcer or a bleeding ulcer. A bleeding ulcer occurs if acid flows into the ulcerated wall and penetrates an artery. It should be understood and made clear that alcohol is a toxic poison that can kill6.

  3. LIVER. Blood is channeled directly from the stomach to the liver. The liver's function is to oxidize all toxic substances in the body. The liver is capable of oxidizing approximately one ounce of hard liquor per hour, regardless of the size of the person. Prolonged abuse of alcohol can severely injure and potentially kill liver cells and then the drinker. Alcohol impairs the primary function of the liver. The functions are production of blood clotting elements, breaking down of large proteins, the storage of vitamin A and glycogen and filtering all blood that goes from the intestines to the heart. When the liver is injured, it swells and fat accumulates in the liver cells. The greater the damage the more likely scar tissue can form causing cirrhosis. Vision can deteriorate and body nutrition can decline as a result of liver damage. Prolonged abuse of the liver will cause symptoms to appear7.

What other types of drugs can affect driving?

Prescription drugs. Prescription drugs include cough medicine, antihistamines, barbiturates, and tranquilizers. Drivers often fail to realize that many drugs as prescribed by their physician have warning labels attached noting alcohol consumption with the drug could be very dangerous. In addition, many of these drugs warn not to operate a motor vehicle when under the dosage as they can cause drowsiness, light-headedness, slower reactions, intensify emotions, impair judgment, concentration and coordination. A driver pulled over under the influence of codeine is still breaking the law as he is driving under the influence. Drivers must be aware of what prescription medicine they are taking and the affects of each on the body8.

Over the counter medications. Many over the counter medications contain alcohol, sedatives and related substances that are not conducive to driving. Drivers must be aware of what is in the over the counter medications they are taking and that these substances could impair the ability to drive safely9.

Depressants. Depressants lower the rate of muscular or nervous system activity and are essentially sedatives. Alcohol falls into this category, as would marijuana, barbiturates, antihistamines and tranquilizers. Driving under the influence of a depressant can have catastrophic affects as judgment is impaired (drivers think they are alright to drive, when they are not) and reactions are dulled and slowed, as is concentration.10.

Stimulants. Stimulants include cocaine, amphetamines, methamphetamines, caffeine and nicotine. This type of drug temporarily stimulates some vital process or organ in the body. When alcohol is consumed, it appears to act as a stimulant for the first hour after consumption but is physiologically a depressant. Cocaine would be a classic example of a stimulant. Cocaine affects the driver's view of reality, reaction time, heightens impulsive or impatient behavior, heightens aggressive or hostile behavior and distorts the drivers decision-making process11.

Narcotics. Narcotics include heroin, codeine, opium and morphine. This type of drug induces a soothing, lulling or dulling affect and in large enough doses can cause comas and death. Narcotics are highly addictive and affect the driver's decision making process, impairing the driver's vision and motor skills, create restlessness, reduces concentration, and may lead to unconscousness. 12

Hallucinogens. Hallucinogens include LSD, Peyote and PCP. This type of drug causes distortion of the driver's perception, sight, hearing, time and distance comprehension, can induce rapid mood swings, slow reaction time, and cause lack of coordination and vision by seeing objects that are not really visible. Since driving depends on the driver's perception, sight, hearing, and vision, dramatically reducing these capabilities is not a sound driving technique13.

What is the synergistic effect?

Synergistic Effect. The synergistic effect is what happens when you combine the intake of two or more drugs at the same time. The effect is different with each combination, each time and each person. The most dangerous aspect of synergism is the additive effect. Alcohol plus sleeping pills can have a dramatically greater effect than either drug alone. A one plus one combination could equal four. Each drug compounds the effect of the other, further altering the driver's ability to safely operate a motor vehicle14.

American Automobile Association, Responsible Driving, Chapter 3, number 1, 2.
Mendelson and Mello, Alcohol, Use and Abuse in America, Chapter 13, number 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.
H. Thomas Milhorn, Drug and Alcohol Abuse: The Authoritative Guide for Parents, Teachers and Counselors, Chapter 2, number 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14.


SUBJECT 2: Relationship Of Amount Of Alcohol Consumed To BAC

When you consume alcohol, the amount of alcohol that accumulates in your body increases with the number of drinks you have and the amount of time in which you drink. You should be aware that impairment (where you are unsafe to drive) begins with the first sip of alcohol. In spite of all the rumors that you have heard, the only way to sober up is time. Regardless of your size or weight, it takes your liver about one hour to remove one drink from your system.

What is the definition of BAC?

BAC is the abbreviation for the concept of Blood Alcohol Concentration. BAC is the measurement of the weight of alcohol in your blood stream per unit of volume. Specifically, when a person has a BAC of .08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood or .08 or more grams of alcohol per 210 milliliters of breath, he or she is presumed to be impaired1.

Can you be convicted of a DUI with a BAC of less than the presumptive limit of .08?

Yes. It is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of alcoholic beverages or controlled substances, when affected to the extent that the person's normal faculties are impaired or to the extent that the person is deprived of full possession of normal faculties, to drive or be in actual physical control of any motor vehicle within this state2.

What effect can alcohol have on you?

  1. The first thing affected after drinking alcohol is a person's judgment. You may think you can drive safely when you can't.
  2. Alcohol also affects your vision and reduces your alertness.
  3. Alcohol affects you differently at different times. If you are upset, over-tired, have an empty stomach, drugs or alcohol will probably have a stronger effect on you.
  4. The amount of alcohol in a one ounce shot of 80 proof whiskey, five ounce glass of wine and 12-oz. beer is all the same. When you have a specialty drink like a Long Island Ice Tea, this drink has multiple shots of at least an 80 proof alcoholic beverage, so by comparison, you have just consumed four regular drinks at one time.
  5. Alcohol appears to act as a stimulant and provokes a sensation approaching euphoria, which makes the subject wrongly assess his capabilities and take risks, which would never have been taken in the normal state. Alcohol also acts like an anesthetic: it suppresses or reduces perception, disrupts the faculties and above all, slows down the reflexes3.
  6. In a review of studies of alcohol-related crashes, reaction time, tracking ability, concentrated attention ability, divided attention performance, information process capability, visual functions, perceptions, and psychomotor performance, impairment in all these areas was significant at blood alcohol concentrations of 0.054.
  7. As stated earlier, as the amount of alcohol you consume increases, your ability to drive safely decreases. As you continue to drink alcohol, the amount stored in your body continues to increase. Your body can eliminate about .015 of BAC per hour. Time is the only way to eliminate alcohol from your body.

Florida Statutes, sections 316.193 and 316.1934, number 1, 2.
MADD, Public Policy Statistics, Blood Alcohol Levels, October 1998, number 3, 4

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