Acute effects of alcohol on inhibitory control and simulated driving in DUI offenders

Nicholas Van Dyke, Mark T. Fillmore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Introduction The public health costs associated with alcohol-related traffic accidents have prompted considerable research aimed at identifying characteristics of individuals who drive under the influence (DUI) in order to improve treatment and prevention strategies. Survey studies consistently show that DUI offenders self-report higher levels of impulsivity compared to their nonoffending counterparts. However, little is known about how individuals with a DUI history respond under alcohol. Inhibitory control is a behavioral component of impulsivity thought to underlie risky drinking and driving behaviors. Method The present study examined the degree to which DUI drivers display deficits of inhibitory control in response to alcohol and the degree to which alcohol impaired their simulated driving performance. It was hypothesized that DUI offenders would display an increased sensitivity to the acute impairing effects of alcohol on simulated driving performance. Young adult drivers with a history of DUI and a demographically-comparable group of drivers with no history of DUI (controls) were tested following a 0.65 g/kg dose of alcohol and a placebo. Inhibitory control was measured by using a cued go/no-go task. Drivers then completed a driving simulation task that yielded multiple indicators of driving performance, such as within-lane deviation, steering rate, centerline crossings and road edge excursions, and drive speed. Results Results showed that although DUI offenders self-reported greater levels of impulsivity than did controls, no group differences were observed in the degree to which alcohol impaired inhibitory control and driving performance. The findings point to the need to identify other aspects of behavioral dysfunction underlying the self-reported impulsivity among DUI offenders, and to better understand the specific driving situations that might pose greater risk to DUI offenders. Practical applications The systematic study of candidate cognitive deficits in DUI offenders will provide important information on their role in risky driving behavior and decisions to drink and drive. Such information is critical for guiding new interventions for DUI offenders that will move treatment beyond general addiction counseling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5.e1-11
JournalJournal of Safety Research
StatePublished - Jun 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Role of funding source: Funding for this study was provided by grant R01 AA021722 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism . This agency had no further role in the study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit the paper for publication.


  • Alcohol
  • DUI
  • Impulsivity
  • Inhibitory control
  • Simulated driving

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality


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