Columbia, MO- People who normally think it is wrong to drink and drive change their views when they become intoxicated, a new study suggests.
The study was conducted by University of Missouri and was published on Sept. 12th in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. According to Newsday, the study was funded by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
For the study, researchers questioned 82 adults about their attitudes on drinking and driving when they were sober and after consuming a few drink and discovered that just a few drinks makes a dramatic change in a person’s attitude about intoxicated driving.
“We all probably know people who make good decisions about lots of things when they’re sober, but put four or five beers in them and they make bad ones. So that part wasn’t surprising,” Denis McCarthy, associate professor of psychological sciences explained to Newsday, “I was surprised, however, that it was such a big effect over and above their sober beliefs.”
The researchers enlisted 43 men and 39 women to participate in the study. The participants attended two sessions in the lab: one in which they drank and then were questioned about their attitudes towards drunken driving, and another session in which they remained sober.
After a consuming a few drinks, the participants were questioned about their willingness to drive at various blood alcohol levels. The researchers found that the difference in the participants’ perception of intoxicated driving was more pronounced after they reached peak blood alcohol concentration. They felt it was safer to drive, even though they were legally intoxicated, than if they were sober.
“It’s a good thing to keep in mind that your judgment when intoxicated is going to be different than your judgment the rest of the time,” McCarthy said. “We showed that there are bigger effects on the descending limb of the BrAC curve, which is important because that’s when people are typically driving home. People on the way down [the BrAC curve] later in the evening are worse judges of how impaired they are, and they’re more impaired than they think.”
Although this study confirms what most people suspect, it is important since it reinforces the fact that people don’t always make sound decisions when they are intoxicated and are inclined to do the wrong thing even though their sober mind would object. McCarthy believes studies like this can help our society change the way we think about drunk driving.
Intoxicated driving accounts for one-third of all fatal traffic accidents in the United States and while this has declined since the 80s when intoxicated driving reached a peak, it is still a serious issue.
Numerous public service campaigns have been targeted at reducing drunk driving, but another recent study showed that Americans are less concerned about intoxicated driving than they have been in the past.
For some people intoxicated driving is a one-time mistake, but it is a lesson they learn the hard way and only after they have gone through the trials and tribulations of a DUI.