New Years Eve has passed and slowly the tally of drunk drivers caught over that notorious night and the DUI heavy holiday season come in from local and state law enforcement agencies. So far, the tally looks pretty normal with some municipalities showing an increase and some a decrease. But what they don’t seem to tally are the excuses. When some people make a mistake, they like to blame the alcohol. “I was drunk!” they might say, but this is seldom an excuse used by drunk drivers for obvious reasons. So how do they explain away their behavior? Well, who knows or cares, because as new research shows, there are no good excuses when it comes to DUI, because the drivers are fully aware of what they’re doing. That’s right, DUI drivers can now give a laundry list of excuses, but that won’t eliminate the fact that they were completely aware that they had been drinking and were then getting into a car and that is not only a mistake, but illegal.

DUI Awareness Study

The new study called Alcohol Effects on Performance Monitoring and Adjustment: Affect Modulation and Impairment of Evaluative Cognitive Control, can be seen in the upcoming edition of the Journal of Abnormal Psychology and was paid for by the The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the University of Missouri Research Board. The study took brain tests of 67 people and showed that alcohol dulls a mechanism in the brain that tells an individual to stop their behavior when they realize they’re making mistakes. Essentially, the study shows that people who commit blunders while under the influence of alcohol know they’re doing it; they just don’t care.

“This isn’t the first study that shows alcohol alters the behavior of those who consume it, but it’s the first to show they don’t care that they’re making mistakes,” said Bartholow, associate professor of psychology at the University of Missouri-Columbia and lead researcher.

The implications of this study is that people who put the public in danger by drinking and getting behind the wheel can’t blame it on not having control because they are fully aware of their behavior, the potential for serious car accidents. The study group derived of people between the ages of 21 and 35 that were broken into three groups:

Group A – One-third of the participants received drinks with enough alcohol to raise their blood levels to just under the legal driving limit of .08 blood alcohol content (BAC). Researchers noted that all participants in the control group got the same amount and they didn’t measure if the effect was gradual. Group B – Another third of the participants received non-alcoholic placebo drinks, however they didn’t know if the drinks contained alcohol or not.Group C – A third received drinks they knew contained no alcohol.

Each group was then assigned tasks designed to elicit mistakes. Researchers used devices on the participants to measure brain activity as the subjects took the tests. Medical technology exists to measure brain activity for impulse control, emotion, mood and other functions. With these devices they recorded results as they observed various factors in participants behavior during the tests such as

  • Mood and demeanor
  • Accuracy in computer tasks
  • Perception of accuracy in the tasks

Though this was a computerized test and not a driving simulator, the moral and reactionary tests were similar. When the mechanism is working, researchers observed that the participants that didn’t ingest alcohol slow down and either tried not to make the mistake again, or they take corrective action. However, the control group that had alcohol was observed to be more likely to disregard the moral stop sign, even though they knew what they were doing. It became apparent that non-drinkers had normal activity in the part of the brain that regulated recognizing mistakes, whereas drinkers had less activity.

“Normally, someone who makes mistakes is aware and makes an effort not to make that mistake again,” Bartholow said. “Drinkers made less of an effort or simply moved past their errors even though they knew they’d made errors.”

The dulling of the brain’s mistake alarm only occurred among people who had alcoholic beverages, he said, and added that using alcohol doesn’t allow someone to escape culpability.

Drinking and Driving In Washington State

Washington State DUI laws, like most laws around the world, prohibit the operation of a motor vehicle by a driver not only under the influence of alcohol, but also under the influence of a controlled substance such as marijuana, cocaine, inhalants and other intoxicants. These include prescription drugs that specifically warn against operating machinery. The .08 percent limit is a general standard used across the US to determine which drivers are “impaired.” Washington has lower BAC limits for commercial drivers (.04) and drivers under the age of 21 (.02). This ensures that underage drivers and commercial drivers stay alert and responsible. The DUI limits translate as such: DRINK EQUIVALENTS: 1 drink / 1 dose equals:

  • 1 1/2 ounces of rum, rye, scotch, brandy, gin, vodka etc.
  • 1 12-oz. bottle of normal-strength beer 3-4%
  • Approximately 7 – 8 oz. of Malt Liquor, or a strong micro brew.
  • 3 ounces of fortified wine
  • 4 – 5 ounces of table wine

Allow an hour per dose before returning to work. Example 2 glasses of wine, allow two hours from time of last dose.

Seattle DUI Victims Lawyers

If you or a loved one sustain serious personal injuries caused by a drunk driver then it is imperative that you find a good lawyer with a proven track record of success in personal injury litigation. Call Phillips Law Firm for a free consultation. Learn More About:

  • Types of Injuries Sustained in a Car Accident
  • Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
  • Personal Injury Settlements