THE EFFECTS OF ETHYL ALCOHOL ON A DRIVER'S DRIVING SKILL, VISUAL PERCEPTION, RISK ACCEPTANCE, CHOICE REACTION TIMES AND INFORMATION PROCESSING RATES

Twelve subjects (20-37 years old) were tested in the laboratory and eleven out of these were also tested in a car in the field, first under a no alcohol condition and then under an alcohol condition (approximately 0.10% BAC). In the laboratory the subjects simple and choice reaction times for two uncertainty modes were measured and their information processing rates (3 bits uncertainty) were determined. In the field the subjects driving skill for driving through a gap with 20 inches total clearance at 20 MPH was measured, as well as their static visual perceptual capabilities and risk acceptance decisions for a 46 viewing distance using psychophysical experimental methods. Based upon the driving skill measure (standard deviation of centerline deviations in the gap), the mean of the psychometric visual gap perception function and the mean of the psychometric gap risk acceptance function, the "Safety Distance" and the "Driver Safety Index" (DSI) were obtained. Based upon a statistical analysis of the data we may conclude first that the effects of alcohol (approximately 0.10% BAC) vary widely from one subject to another (slightly improved performance to highly impaired performance) and that the changes in the group averages of the means and standard deviations of the psychometric visual perception and risk acceptance functions, the driving skill distributions, the "Safety Distances" and the DSI's for the subjects (although all changes in the group averages are in the expected direction) are statistically not significant (alpha = .05). Second, the group average of the means of the choice reaction times for the subjects increased by 5% under the alcohol condition (statistically significant, alpha = .05), but more important the group average of the standard deviations of the choice reaction times for the subjects increased by 23% (statistically significant, alpha = .05). The group average of the information processing rates for the subjects decreased by 3% (statistically not significant, alpha = .05) under the alcohol condition. A system model in which the system demands on the driver are represented in terms of choice reaction times is used to demonstrate that the increase in performance variability (expressed by the standard deviation of choice reaction times) under the influence of alcohol provides a much better explanation for the higher accident involvement than the historically most frequently used rather small increase in average performance (expressed by the mean of choice reaction times). /Author/

  • Supplemental Notes:
    • Proceedings of the 18th Annual Meeting, October, 1974.
  • Corporate Authors:

    Human Factors Society

    Johns Hopkins University Press
    Baltimore, MD  United States  21218
  • Authors:
    • Zwahlen, H T
  • Conference:
  • Publication Date: 1974-10

Media Info

  • Pagination: p. 116
  • Serial:
    • Volume: 18

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00127166
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: National Safety Council Safety Research Info Serv
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jan 14 1976 12:00AM