6 Reasons You’ll Hit A Fire Engine When You’re Driving Drunk

effects of alcohol on driving - hitting fire engineNot too long ago the US seemed to suffer from an epidemic of drunk drivers who were hitting police cars. In fact, that happens all too often, because police cruisers are often parked on the side of the road, and drunk drivers often plow into cars that are stopped near them.

But this is a rarity: a drunk driver who managed to zero in on a fire engine. It happened in Dallas recently, during – when else? – the wee hours on a Sunday morning.

A Dallas Fire-Rescue Engine should be hard to miss, but they should also be easy to avoid, since they’re enormous, painted red, and festooned with lights. Unfortunately, the effects of alcohol on driving are so powerful and varied that they can weaken your faculties to the point at which a fire engine is almost invisible.

The Effects of Alcohol on Driving: 6 Ways to Hit a Fire Engine

  1. Alcohol impairs judgment. How soon and how hard do you brake when you see something on the road in front of you? Is it safe to turn left, or should you wait until the oncoming car passes? Decisions like these rely on judgment, which is hobbled when you’re drunk. You might see the fire engine, but think you have more time to stop than you really do.
  2. Alcohol interferes with concentration. Driving is a full-time job, requiring constant attention. Distractions abound in this world, but alcohol makes everything a distraction. Your mind can and will leave the road, causing you to ignore hazards – like fire engines stopped in the road – until it’s too late.
  3. Alcohol messes up coordination. If you’re an experienced driver you probably don’t realize how much you rely on coordination to get where you’re going. But driving means steering, monitoring your speed, and watching for hazards all at the same time. If you’re drunk one or more of these will suffer. You might slow down but forget to steer away when you see the fire engine, for example.
  4. Alcohol screws up comprehension. Roads give you lots of signals – signs, flashing lights, turn signals, horns – and you need to understand what they mean. That’s not hard when you’re sober. But if you see a stop sign  – or a flashing light of a fire engine – and you don’t quite get what’s going on, you’re headed for trouble.
  5. Alcohol affects vision. If you’re intoxicated you’re not seeing clearly. You also have a tendency to over-focus on a single point – say, the center line – and not see things around it – say, a fire engine.
  6. Alcohol slows reaction time. Even if you see a hazard in front of you, if you’ve been drinking you’ll lose precious seconds as you figure out that it’s necessary to step on the brake. At 60 mph, a 3-second delay means you’ll go an extra 264 feet before you brake. That’s a long distance that could be filled with things like fire engines.

This crash was bad enough, leading to hospitalization for the drunk driver and damage to the fire engine. But the real point here is that if the effects of alcohol on driving are such that you can’t see a fire engine, how are you going to see a car, or a child crossing the road? That’s what makes drunk driving so dangerous, and why we need party hosts to encourage designated drivers for guests. It’s also why we need DUI patrols, ignition interlocks, and road safety education to drive home the idea that drunk drivers are not fit to be on the road.