Binge Drinkers Less Aware of Driving Impairment
> 5/12/2008 3:10:43 PM

Drunk driving ends thousands of lives every year. Impassioned groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving have been able to raise awareness of this avoidable tragedy, but despite their best efforts many people still decide to get behind the wheel after imbibing too many drinks. If we are to effectively clamp down on this phenomenon, we must better understand why these people still choose to drive. Dr. Cecile Marczinski conducted a study, set to appear in the July issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, that suggests that at least part of the problem is that binge drinkers cannot accurately gauge their level of impairment.

Many binge drinkers are not addicted to alcohol, but they have a serious problem with the substance because they drink to get drunk, and so, frequently consume enough to cloud their judgment. In September of last year, Dr. Marczinski discovered that binge drinkers lose more impulse control than normal drinkers given the same amount of alcohol. This was her first hint that binge drinkers have a cognitive vulnerability independent of the amount of alcohol currently in the blood.

In this more recent study, Dr. Marczinski looked for further vulnerabilities by putting binge drinkers in a driving simulator. Both binge drinkers and controls were given a 0.65 g/kg dose of alcohol (the legal driving limit in the United States) and both performed equally terribly on driving tests. So far, there seems little problem. However, questionnaires after the driving revealed that the binge drinker group rated their driving ability much higher than the control group, meaning that they were unable to correctly evaluate the severity of their impairment.

This study does not explain why binge drinkers are worse at self-assessment. Three plausible possibilities for this come immediately to mind: heavy drinking damages the brain, people prone to binge drinking lack self-assessment ability to begin with, or frequent bingers develop a tolerance for some of the symptoms of intoxication but not the ones that impair driving ability. Whichever hypothesis turns out to be the best explanation, binge drinkers need to be warned that they are driving with a false sense of confidence that endangers their safety and the lives of others.

No comments yet.

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy