Alcohol causes a variety of symptoms that make driving extraordinarily dangerous. Thanks to driver’s education and wonderful organizations like MADD, all drivers know this — or should. But one of the biggest dangers is a drunk driver’s inability to quickly react to problems on the road.
That’s what happened last week after 20 year-old Mikayla Prince lost control of her Mitsubishi on I-635 and hit a guardrail. She and her friend got out of the car and stood on the side of the highway. A good Samaritan, James Fofanah, stopped to help. Moments later, 23-year-old Ashlynn Hurley plowed into the accident scene and tragically killed Ms. Prince and Mr. Fofanah. Hurley’s Toyota caught on fire but she escaped with minor injuries. Hurley was arrested for DWI.
Had Hurley not been intoxicated, she would have the mental faculties to see the car crash sooner.
This is why we must support Mothers Against Drunk Drivers so these horrendous crashes stop. According to MADD, each day 27 people are killed in a drunk driving crash and hundreds suffer injuries, with one-third of the drunks being repeat offenders. And Texans spend over $6 billion every year due to drunk driving collisions.
How alcohol affects reaction to emergencies
Even if an impaired driver remains in his or her lane, goes the speed limit and acts carefully, alcohol affects how quickly and effectively an intoxicated driver can act when an emergency occurs.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no safe way to drive drunk.
Alcohol affects emergency response by impairing these critical driving skills:
- Tracking. The eyes of a sober driver constantly and smoothly track moving objects allowing him or her to scan the road. Alcohol impairs this controlled, second nature eye movement that is necessary to identify problems while travelling at high speed. During a traffic stop, when an officer moves a pen slowly in front of a suspected drunk driver’s eyes, he is testing this tracking movement.
- Depth perception. Alcohol can cause blurred vision and the driver may not even see an accident up ahead until it is too late. Did you know that depth perception is also seriously impaired someone has had too much to drink? A drunk driver may believe that he or she has more time to react to a situation than they actually do.
- Reaction time. A 2010 study found that alcohol affects the section of the brain responsible for making quick decisions. The researchers found a slower response time, a higher rate of error, and fewer successful decisions as the level of the subject’s intoxication increased.
- Coordination. Because alcohol impairs balance and hand-and-eye coordination, once the drunk driver reacts to a problem, he or she may stumble to put their foot on the brakes or turn the wheel.
Proving liability in a drunk driving claim
If you have ever been involved in a car or truck crash claim, you may have heard the insurance adjuster discuss causation. Every time an injury lawyer pursues a claim against a negligent driver, he must show that the driver’s actions caused the accident and his client’s resulting injuries.
A common insurance company tactic in court is to claim that not did its policyholder not cause the crash, but that the car wreck was the innocent victim’s fault. Even if the drunk driver is convicted of DWI, he (and his insurance company) is not liable for financial damages in a civil court.
I have studied the effects of alcohol on the human brain and body and argue that but for the driver’s intoxication, the car accident would never have happened.
Please contact my office if you have been injured in a car or truck collision in North Texas. We can help you.