Cognitive and Behavioral Mechanisms Underlying Alcohol-Induced Driver Risk-Taking

Grants and Contracts Details


Alcohol-induced impairments in skills relevant to driving are poor predictors of DUI-related motor vehicle collisions (MVC). As such, research has shifted to how drivers select the amount of risk for injury/collision they are willing to accept in a driving situation and then behave accordingly. Measurement of risk acceptance is based on proxemics analyses that examine the position of the driver’s vehicle relative to others. By this measure, high risk-acceptance is demonstrated when a driver tailgates other vehicles, for example, and this predictsMVCs (Zhang et al., 2003). The measure is preferred over accident counts as it is a more sensitive indicator of risk; individuals can increase risk without crashing. Although it is now widely argued driver risk-taking can play a greater role in MVC than the driver’s basic skills, this concept has not been well incorporated into studies of alcohol effects on driving behavior. Further, a problematic assumption is often made; alcohol affects both skill and risky driving with equal causal role. However, alcohol might increase risk-taking behavior in a driver without necessarily producing pronounced impairment in the driver’s skill. As a consequence of this assumption, little is known about the potentially distinct cognitive-behavioral mechanisms that may underlie alcohol induced driver risk-taking and impairment in driving skill. Lastly, risk-based models assert the amount of risk one is willing to take is determined by an interaction between perceived and actual skill level (Näätänen & Summala, 1974; Wilde, 1986). However, the role of this relationship on driver risk-taking has never been systematically examined in a controlled laboratory setting. Empirical assessment of such assumptions will provide insight into factors that contribute to DUI-related MVCs. The dissertation is comprised of three studies aimed at determiningwhether (Study 1) alcohol-induced driver risk-taking co-occurs with pronounced impairment in drivers’ skill, (Studies 1, 2, 3) the cognitive-behavioral profile of individuals who increase risk taking under alcohol (Study 3) and whether perceived driving ability plays a larger role than actual ability in risky driving when sober and intoxicated. Studies 1 and 2: complete (Laude & Fillmore, 2015; Laude & Fillmore in submission). Study 3: in progress.
Effective start/end date11/4/155/15/16


  • American Psychological Association: $1,000.00


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