The effects of alcohol intoxication on cognitive functions critical for driving: A systematic review

Harriet Garrisson, Andrew Scholey, Edward Ogden, Sarah Benson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Alcohol is the most frequently detected substance in drivers involved in road traffic collisions. Given that up to 35% of fatal road collisions are alcohol-related, it is important to determine the influence of alcohol intoxication on driving-related skills. This review provides an updated and systematic evaluation of the available research concerning the effect of alcohol intoxication on cognitive functions critical for driving. Databases EBSCOhost, PsycInfo, PubMed, Scopus, Transport Research International Documentation (TRID) and Web of Science were searched for controlled trials examining the effect of alcohol on divided attention, executive functioning, perception, psychomotor skills, reaction time and/or vigilance. Fourteen studies met the inclusion criteria and were included in this review. We found that each of the cognitive domains assessed in this review showed impairment at blood alcohol concentrations equal to or below the legal driving limit in many jurisdictions. Future research could determine the effects of alcohol on cognitive functioning with greater accuracy by employing more consistent, reliable and comparable measures while considering the translation of deficits to real-life driving.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106052
Number of pages11
JournalAccident Analysis and Prevention
Publication statusPublished - May 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Alcohol
  • Cognition
  • Driving performance
  • Impairment tests
  • Traffic safety

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