Researchers assessed the drivers' ability to stay in the center of their lane and maintain a constant speed. They also looked at how rapidly they adjusted their steering wheel.
On a later day, the groups were further separated into groups. The first imbibed a placebo a diet lemon-lime soda misted with a negligible amount of alcohol to mimic the experience of drinking alcohol. A second group's drink was strong enough to produce a 0.04 percent breath alcohol level, and a third group's drink gave them a breath alcohol level of 0.065 percent still below the federal legal level for drinking of 0.08.
Participants then completed the same driving task they performed when they were sober. Researchers timed the task so participants' alcohol levels were declining to mimic a situation in which individuals have a drink with dinner and then drive home.
In younger adults, the researchers found alcohol consumption did not affect their measured driving skills at all a finding that Nixon called a "bit surprising." She warned that the absence of effects in this laboratory setting does not mean that young adult drivers' driving wouldn't be affected in normal circumstances, driving in a typical, real-world setting. She noted that the laboratory setting was simplified compared with real-world driving and that the current data don't address potential problems in more complex settings.
But for the older drivers, the small, legal levels of intoxication did affect their driving.
The researchers are evaluating additional study results. Participants also drove a course through a small-town setting as well as a city setting, complete with pedestrians, motorists who violated traffic signs and other challenges. Sklar and others in the l
|Contact: Morgan Sherburne|
University of Florida