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How alcohol affects a driver’s reaction times

On Behalf of | May 6, 2021 | Car Accidents

You know that you have to share the road with drunk drivers, and you know that there are many ways they pose a threat. Some drunk drivers are so close to blacking out that they don’t even remember getting in their car. Others make errors like driving the wrong way on a one-way street, something sober drivers could have avoided. 

One key way that alcohol makes drivers more dangerous, though, is by slowing down their reaction times. It doesn’t take much alcohol to make a major difference, either.

A tiny delay in reaction times translates into a big travel distance

One example of this in action comes from a study looking directly at driver reaction times. What it found was that legally drunk drivers — meaning their Blood Alcohol Concentration was at least 0.08% — took an average of 120 extra milliseconds longer than sober drivers to react to hazards in the road. 

In more common terms, “120 milliseconds” is only about a tenth of a second. 

That doesn’t sound like it would change the outcome of a crash, but it absolutely can. Imagine that a driver is going at 70 miles per hour. They realize that traffic has stopped ahead of them and hit their brakes. If they’re sober, they skid to a stop 10 feet behind the next car, and everyone is safe. 

If a driver is drunk, though, that extra tenth of a second of reaction time adds another 12 feet to their stopping distance — and that could easily lead to a horrible crash. 

Have you been injured by an impaired driver?

If you or a loved one has gotten injured in a crash caused by an impaired driver, you need to know how to seek financial compensation for your medical bills and other costs. An attorney can help you understand what steps to take next and be your advocate with the insurance companies involved.