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Blood-Alcohol Levels

Volume 87: debated on Monday 18 November 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Transport what information is available to him as to the percentage reduction in human reaction time and alertness caused by a 80 mg/100 ml alcohol level in the blood; and if he will make a statement.

The International Road Research Documentation scheme, of which the Transport and Road Research Laboratory is the English language centre, lists over 7,000 references of some relevance to this question. Results of these studies indicate that alcohol impairs all human reactions and that this occurs progressively for the smallest doses taken*. There are wide variations associated with such factors as age and drinking experience.A recent review† states:

"Although every independent investigator has found reaction time to increase with increasing blood-alcohol levels, no simple correlation between percentage increase and level can be detected"

I have asked that new work is undertaken on impairment, and that recent overseas research be examined fully in this respect.


* Drew, G. C.; Colquhoun, W. P. and Long, M.A. (1959): Effect of small doses of alcohol on a skill resembling drivers (Medical Research Council Memorandum No. 38, HMSO, London).

† Walls, H. J. and Brownlie, A. R. (1985): 'Drink Drugs and Driving', 2nd Edition, Sweet and Maxwell, London p 47.