Distraction produces over-additive increases in the degree to which alcohol impairs driving performance

Nicholas A. Van Dyke, Mark T. Fillmore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Rationale: Research indicates that alcohol intoxication and increased demands on drivers' attention from distractions (e.g., passengers and cell phones) contribute to poor driving performance and increased rates of traffic accidents and fatalities. Objectives: The present study examined the separate and combined effects of alcohol and distraction on simulated driving performance at blood alcohol concentrations (BrACs) below the legal driving limit in the USA (i.e., 0.08 %). Methods: Fifty healthy adult drivers (36 men and 14 women) were tested in a driving simulator following a 0.65-g/kg dose of alcohol and a placebo. Drivers completed two drive tests: a distracted drive, which included a two-choice detection task, and an undistracted control drive. Multiple indicators of driving performance, such as drive speed, within-lane deviation, steering rate, and lane exceedances were measured. Results: Alcohol and distraction each impaired measures of driving performance. Moreover, the magnitude of alcohol impairment was increased by at least twofold when tested under the distracting versus the undistracted condition. Conclusions: The findings highlight the need for a clearer understanding of how common distractions impact intoxicated drivers, especially at BrACs that are currently legal for driving in the USA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4277-4284
Number of pages8
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Grant R01 AA021722 and National Institute on Drug Abuse Grant T32 DA035200. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. Both authors designed the study, wrote the protocol, collected the data, and undertook the statistical analyses. All authors contributed to and have approved the final manuscript. All authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.


  • Alcohol
  • BrAC
  • Distraction
  • Simulated driving
  • Subjective intoxication
  • Traffic safety

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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