Intoxication and Distraction are Dangerous for Driving

Both intoxicated driving and distracted driving are dangerous and can cause fatal traffic accidents. Combining the two additionally increases the risk of crashes, according to recent research.

Study participants used a driving simulator and their primary goal was to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of them and their secondary goal was to maintain a stable lane position. All participants engaged in distractions and half consumed alcohol to the point of legal intoxication (BAC of 0.08g/dl).

Investigators then compared sober driving while distracted and driving intoxicated without distraction. Distraction produced more serious changes in driving behavior than did intoxication for both primary and secondary driving goals. However, impairment was increased when participants were both intoxicated and distracted.

This research is consistent with earlier findings of others that the distraction of using cell phones makes such phone users even more dangerous than intoxicated drivers at the .08 to .10 BAC levels.

The take home message: Don't drive while intoxicated and don't drive while using a cell phone (even a hands-free model) and don't even think of doing both simultaneously.


  • Rakauskas, M.E., Ward, N.J., Boer, E.R., Bernat, E.M., Cadwallader, M., and Patrick, C.J. Combined effects of alcohol and distraction on driving performance, Accident Analysis and Prevention, 2008, 1742-9.

Filed Under: Drinking and Driving