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Why drunk drivers may get behind the wheel
Date:8/17/2010

Providence, RI A new study shows the impact of alcohol intoxication on reasoning and problem-solving abilities and may explain why some people feel they have recovered enough to drive after drinking. The research, led by Peter J. Snyder, PhD, vice president of research for Lifespan, is the first to explore how these cognitive abilities are impacted during both rising and declining blood alcohol concentrations, at matched blood alcohol level concentrations, and how self-evaluation of recovery differs from actual recovery from impairment. The study is published in the August 2010 issue of Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, a publication by the American Psychological Association.

Alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents claim 17,000 American lives each year -- the equivalent of one death every 30 minutes. An increase of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.02 percent doubles the relative risk of a motor vehicle crash among 16- to 20-year old males, and that risk increases to nearly 52 times when the BAC is between 0.08 percent and 0.10 percent, the legal limits in many states.

Until now, there has been little research to provide a better understanding of the extent to which perception of drunkenness and cognitive abilities are impacted on both the rising and declining limbs of the BAC curve. In this study, Snyder and his colleagues developed a test that could look at rising and declining levels of BAC and study its impacts on functions that would be required for driving. Through a placebo-controlled controlled study of a group of college students, the researchers were able to compare the subjective feelings of drunkenness and their ability to navigate a hidden maze learning task as their BAC both rose and fell over an 8-hour period.

Snyder, who is also professor of neurology at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, says, "While our study supports past research, the real new piece of information tha
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Contact: Nancy Cawley Jean
njean@lifespan.org
Lifespan
Source:Eurekalert  

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