Gender differences in alcohol impairment of simulated driving performance and driving-related skills

Melissa A. Miller, Jessica Weafer, Mark T. Fillmore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


Aims: Considerable laboratory research indicates that moderate doses of alcohol impair a broad range of skilled activities related to driving performance in young adults. Although laboratory studies show that the intensity of impairment is generally dependent on the blood alcohol concentration, some reviews of this literature suggest that women might be more sensitive to the impairing effects of alcohol than men. The present study tested this hypothesis. Methods: Drawing on data from previous experiments in our laboratory, we compared men and women in terms of the degree to which a challenge dose of alcohol (0.65 g/kg) impaired their simulated driving performance and measures of three separate behavioral and cognitive functions important to driving performance: motor coordination, speed of information processing and information-processing capacity. Results: Alcohol significantly impaired all aspects of performance. Moreover, women displayed greater impairment than men on all behavioral tests and also reported higher levels of subjective intoxication compared with men. Conclusions: Both biological and social-cultural factors have been implicated in gender differences in the behavioral responses to alcohol. The current evidence of heightened sensitivity to alcohol in women highlights the need for better understanding the biological and environmental factors underlying this gender difference.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)586-593
Number of pages8
JournalAlcohol and Alcoholism
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements — Funding for this study was provided by grant R01 AA12895 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and by grant R21 DA021027 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. These agencies had no further role in 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. All authors contributed to and have approved of the final manuscript.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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