Alcohol and distraction interact to impair driving performance

Emily L.R. Harrison, Mark T. Fillmore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Recognition of the risks associated with alcohol intoxication and driver distraction has led to a wealth of simulated driving research aimed at studying the adverse effects of each of these factors. Research on driving has moved beyond the individual, separate examination of these factors to the examination of potential interactions between alcohol intoxication and driver distraction. In many driving situations, distractions are commonplace and might have little or no disruptive influence on primary driving functions. Yet, such distractions might become disruptive to a driver who is intoxicated. Methods: The present study examined the interactive impairing effects of alcohol intoxication and driver distraction on simulated driving performance in 40 young adult drivers using a divided attention task as a distracter activity. The interactive influence of alcohol and distraction was tested by having drivers perform the driving task under four different conditions: 0.65. g/kg alcohol; 0.65. g/kg alcohol. +. divided attention; placebo; and placebo. +. divided attention. Results: As hypothesized, divided attention had no impairing effect on driving performance in sober drivers. However, under alcohol, divided attention exacerbated the impairing effects of alcohol on driving precision. Conclusions: Alcohol and distraction continue to be appropriate targets for research into ways to reduce the rates of driving-related fatalities and injuries. Greater consideration of how alcohol and distraction interact to impair aspects of driving performance can further efforts to create prevention and intervention measures to protect drivers, particularly young adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-37
Number of pages7
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
Volume117
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2011

Keywords

  • Alcohol
  • Distraction
  • Divided attention
  • Driving

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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