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2.22 – Alcohol, Other Drugs and Driving

2.22.1 – Alcohol and Driving

Drinking alcohol and then driving is very dangerous and a serious problem. People who drink alcohol are involved in traffic accidents resulting in more than 20,000 deaths every year. Alcohol impairs muscle coordination, reaction time, depth perception, and night vision. It also affects the parts of the brain that control judgment and inhibition. For some people, one drink is all it takes to show signs of impairment.

How Alcohol Works. Alcohol goes directly into the bloodstream and is carried to the brain. After passing through the brain, a small percentage is removed in urine, perspiration, and by breathing, while the rest is carried to the liver. The liver can only process one-third of an ounce of alcohol per hour, which is considerably less than the alcohol in a standard drink.

This is a fixed rate, so only time, not black coffee or a cold shower, will sober you up. If you have drinks faster than your body can get rid of them, you will have more alcohol in your body and your driving will be more affected. The Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) commonly measures the amount of alcohol in your body.

What Determines Blood Alcohol Concentration. BAC is determined by the amount of alcohol you drink (more alcohol means higher BAC), how fast you drink (faster drinking means higher BAC) and your weight (a small person does not have to drink as much to reach the same BAC).

Alcohol and the Brain. Alcohol affects more and more of the brain as BAC builds up. The first part of the brain affected controls judgment and self-control. One of the bad things about this is it can keep drinkers from knowing they are getting drunk. And, of course, good judgment and self-control are absolutely necessary for safe driving.

As BAC continues to build up, muscle control, vision and coordination are affected more and more. Effects on driving may include:

  • Straddling lanes.
  • Quick, jerky starts.
  • Not signaling, failure to use lights.
  • Running stop signs and red lights.
  • Improper passing.

These effects mean increased chances of a crash and losing your driver's license. Accident statistics show that the chance of a crash is much greater for drivers who have been drinking than for drivers who have not.

How Alcohol Affects Driving. All drivers are affected by drinking alcohol. Alcohol affects judgment, vision, coordination and reaction time. It causes serious driving errors, such as:

  • Increased reaction time to hazards.
  • Driving too fast or too slow.
  • Driving in the wrong lane.
  • Running over the curb.
  • Weaving.

2.22.2 – Other Drugs

Besides alcohol, other legal and illegal drugs are being used more often. Laws prohibit possession or use of many drugs while on duty. They prohibit being under the influence of any “controlled substance,” amphetamines (including “pep pills,” “uppers” and “bennies”), narcotics or any other substance, which can make the driver unsafe. This could include a variety of prescription and over-the-counter drugs (cold medicines), which may make the driver drowsy or otherwise affect safe driving ability. However, possession and use of a drug given to a driver by a doctor is permitted if the doctor informs the driver that it will not affect safe driving ability.

Pay attention to warning labels for legitimate drugs and medicines and to doctor's orders regarding possible effects. Stay away from illegal drugs. Do not use any drug that hides fatigue, the only cure for fatigue is rest. Alcohol can make the effects of other drugs much worse. The safest rule is do not mix drugs with driving at all.

Use of drugs can lead to traffic accidents resulting in death, injury and property damage. Furthermore, it can lead to arrest, fines and jail sentences. It can also mean the end of a person's driving career.

Multiple-Choice Questions:

Question #185 (1 of 3)

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The liver can only process one-third of an ounce of alcohol per hour. Because this is a fixed rate, what is the only thing that can sober you up?

  • Sleep
  • Time
  • Food
  • Aspirin

How Alcohol Works. Alcohol goes directly into the bloodstream and is carried to the brain. After passing through the brain, a small percentage is removed in urine, perspiration, and by breathing, while the rest is carried to the liver. The liver can only process one-third of an ounce of alcohol per hour, which is considerably less than the alcohol in a standard drink.

This is a fixed rate, so only time, not black coffee or a cold shower, will sober you up. If you have drinks faster than your body can get rid of them, you will have more alcohol in your body and your driving will be more affected. The Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) commonly measures the amount of alcohol in your body.

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Question #183 (2 of 3)

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What determines blood alcohol concentration?

  • The amount of alcohol you drink, how fast you drink, and your weight
  • The amount of alcohol you drink, your gender, and the amount time since you last had a drink
  • How fast you drink and your weight
  • The amount of alcohol you consume, your weight, and your tolerance to alcohol

What Determines Blood Alcohol Concentration. BAC is determined by the amount of alcohol you drink (more alcohol means higher BAC), how fast you drink (faster drinking means higher BAC) and your weight (a small person does not have to drink as much to reach the same BAC).

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Question #184 (3 of 3)

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Which of the following is true about drug use for commercial drivers?

  • You are allowed to use any legal medications, but no illegal drugs
  • They prohibit being under the influence of any “controlled substance,” narcotics, or any other substance, which can make the driver unsafe. This does not apply to any over-the-counter medications or prescriptions.
  • Drugs of any kind, prescription or illegal, are strictly prohibited for commercial driving
  • They prohibit being under the influence of any “controlled substance,” narcotics, or any other substance, which can make the driver unsafe. This could include a variety of prescription and over-the-counter drugs (cold medicines), which may make the driver drowsy or otherwise affect safe driving ability.
Laws prohibit possession or use of many drugs while on duty. They prohibit being under the influence of any “controlled substance,” amphetamines (including “pep pills,” “uppers” and “bennies”), narcotics, or any other substance, which can make the driver unsafe. This could include a variety of prescription and over-the-counter drugs (cold medicines), which may make the driver drowsy or otherwise affect safe driving ability.
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