DUI laws assume to light-to-moderate drinking isn't always necessarily intoxicating enough to inhibit a motorist—which is why we have blood alcohol content (BAC) limits and not a zero tolerance policy. A newly released study, however, is challenging that assumption. Researches from the University of Kentucky have concluded that even a single drink can dangerously affect drivers on the road, especially when in-cabin distractions are present.
As Daily Mail reports, the new study has found that even minor distractions, like text messages and dashboard alerts, can make it twice as hard for drivers to focus if they have a small amount of alcohol in their system. In their experiment, University of Kentucky researchers used a driving simulator to test 50 drivers. While controlling the wheel, the subjects also had to tend to dashboard alerts that mimic incoming text messages and other electronic notifications.
The results showed that alcohol or the distractions alone inhibited drivers, but those subjects that had been exposed to both demonstrated doubled impairment. The conclusions are sobering, especially considering how electronically integrated dashboard systems are becoming in new vehicles.
A New Reality for Drivers
The university researchers believe that their experiment not only proves that DUI laws could be too permissive when it comes to BAC levels, but that there needs to be a renewed focus on how the driving experience is changing for motorists. "With continuing advancements in technology and the omnipresence of distractions while driving, it is becoming increasingly important to study the interaction between alcohol and distraction on driving," said psychologist Nicolas van Dyke.
Another professor involved with the study, Mark Fillmore, concurred: "A clearer understanding of how common distractions impact intoxicated drivers, especially at blood alcohol concentrations that are currently legal for driving in the United States, is an important step to reducing traffic accidents and fatalities and improving overall traffic safety."
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