The D.E.P. Academy Driver Education Course


Alcohol And Drugs Page 1


  • Alcohol is a colorless chemical present in fermented or distilled liquors. This chemical affects the entire central nervous system, and is deadly if too much is consumed.  Although it is classified as a depressant, alcohol actually has a duel effect, acting as a stimulant at lower BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) levels. After drinking alcohol, you may initially feel euphoric and stimulated, but later feel sleepy and sedated.  BAC is expressed in terms of the percentage of alcohol in your blood by weight.

Affects Of Alcohol On The Brain

  • When consumed, alcohol passes through the three main areas of the brain. These are the forebrain, the midbrain, and the hindbrain. 
  • The forebrain controls judgment and reasoning. It is in this area that the alcohol "high" is created. Caution, common sense, reasoning, and inhibitions are reduced when this area of the brain is exposed to alcohol. 
  • The midbrain regulates muscular control.  Coordinated movement is affected by alcohol in this part of the brain.
  • The hindbrain controls involuntary bodily functions such as respiration (breathing) and heart rate.

Behavioral And Psychosocial Affects

  •  .05% BAC:   Euphoric, relaxed, and congenial.
  •  .07% BAC:   Talkative, excited, and sociable.
  •  .10% BAC:   Uncoordinated, slurred speech, and loss of inhibitions.
  •  .12% BAC:   Unrestrained behavior, lack of control, and loss of judgment.
  •  .20% BAC:    Loss of alertness, drowsiness, and lethargy.
  •  .30% BAC:   Stupor or comatose state.
  •  .40% BAC:   Suppression of respiratory function, erratic heartbeat, can be fatal.
  •  .50% BAC:   Death is likely to occur.
  • When a person consumes 12 drinks, he or she could reach a BAC level as high as .50%.  Death can result from this level of intoxication. 

See the Alcohol Impairment Chart below, which you can use to estimate at what point you risk being arrested for a DUI.

  • Beer can exceed 5% alcohol, wine is typically 12% alcohol, and distilled spirits are typically at least 40% alcohol. There is usually the same amount of alcohol in a twelve ounce can of beer, a five ounce glass of wine, and a drink containing one shot (1 ounce) of an 80 proof distilled spirit.
  • When you take a drink, the alcohol is absorbed into the lining of the stomach and small intestine. It is promptly disseminated by the bloodstream to parts of the body, including the brain. About 5% of the alcohol you consume is absorbed in your mouth and throat, and 95% is absorbed in the digestive system. Alcohol cannot be retained in your body's tissue without serious health effects. In addition, only 2 to 5% is passed unchanged by body functions, less than 10% is eliminated by kidneys, lungs and skin, and the remainder - about 90% must be slowly eliminated by your liver through oxidation.

The Effects Of Alcohol On Your Driving

  • Alcohol adversely affects your ability to drive by effecting your judgment, awareness, vision, and reaction time.  Alcohol diminishes your ability to identify hazards, your ability to make a correct decision once a hazard is identified, and slows your reaction time even if the correct decision is made. If you are under the influence of alcohol, you may be unable to handle an emergency situation that requires quick decision making and reflexes.
  • Depending on your weight, as little as one drink can make you an unsafe driver.  It is unlawful for drivers under the age of 21 to drive with any amount of alcohol in their system. Distance, depth and speed perception are all affected by the consumption of alcohol. To steer and brake smoothly a driver needs to be well coordinated, and must know where the cars are and how fast they are going. Many alcohol related crashes occur at high speeds because the drivers who were drinking had no sense of how fast they were going.
  • Alcohol impaired drivers tend to stare rather than scan.    This can significantly impair your awareness of other vehicles and developing traffic situations.  Alcohol impaired drivers have difficulty performing more than one task at a time, which is a serious driving impairment. You must be able to perform multiple talks to stay safe behind the wheel. Alcohol impaired drivers often forget to perform important driving tasks, such as turning on or dimming their headlights. They may also forget to wear their seat belt, thereby increasing their risk of being fatally injured in an accident.
  • Even very small amounts of alcohol adversely affects your ability to accommodate changing levels of light, your depth perception, your ability to make rapid lateral eye movements needed to scan for hazards, and your fields of vision. Reduced visual function and poor judgment, especially at night, can be a deadly combination.
  • Alcohol  slows your mental processes, which include your ability to recognize hazards. This requires you to have quicker reflexes, because your time to react has been shortened. With your basic reflexes slowed, your chances of staying our of an accident are reduced.  Alcohol impaired drivers' reaction time is much slower than a non-impaired driver. The nerves are affected by alcohol and an impaired driver cannot react quickly to unfolding situations and make appropriate decisions.  Alcohol significantly slows the decision making process.
  • Myths about alcohol include the belief that cold showers, black coffee, or exercising will sober up a person. Like many myths this isn't true. The time to sober up is dependent on body weight, what you have had to eat, and other factors outside your immediate control. There is no way to get sober quickly.
  • Alcohol is involved in about 40% of all fatal highway accidents. Drivers with BAC of only .02% are at least seven times more likely to be killed in an accident than sober drivers. Drivers with a BAC of .20% are 90 times more likely to be killed in an accident than sober drivers.

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