As in the Moskowitz & Robinson (1988) review, the search was limited to experimental measures of skills performance. Without denying the importance of motivational and subjective behaviors as possible factors interacting with alcohol effects on safety, it was our decision that including these response variables would unduly broaden the scope of the review. No one denies, for example, that alcohol increases aggression; there is adequate literature to demonstrate that. What is less clear is how the increased aggressiveness under alcohol would interact with driving behavior. The study of the effects of alcohol on motivation, emotion, etc., therefore, deserves a separate review. This review is confined to more clearly defined measurable variables that are relevant to driving.

Using various search engines, a wide computer search of the literature reporting the effects of alcohol on driving skills was conducted. Abstracts were obtained for 1733 titles produced by the computer search. Based on the content of these abstracts, 358 articles were identified for retrieval and further review. Seventy-three of selected publications were not available.

The 285 published articles retrieved were evaluated to determine whether they met the following, pre-determined inclusion criteria:

The evaluation determined that 112 studies met the review's inclusion criteria. These 112 articles were reviewed and indexed by driving behavior and BAC, and the pertinent data from each article were entered into a computer data base. Table 1 provides a short description of the behavioral tasks included in the 112 studies by the 13 behavioral domain areas which categorized those studies. It lists the number of articles in each behavioral domain and the number of BAC levels tested across those studies within the domain.


Domain Tasks Number of Articles Number of BAC Levels
Aftereffects Testing measured residual alcohol effects on a drinker's performance following a drinking session and the drinker's return to zero BAC. Various tasks from all other domains were used. 12 25
Cognitive Tasks Digit-symbol substitution, mathematical and verbal reasoning, memory, pattern recognition, visual backward masking, card sorting. 31 145
Critical Flicker Fusion Determination of the lowest frequency at which a flickering on-off light appears to be constant. 7 18
Divided Attention Simultaneous performance of two or more tasks such as tracking, visual search, number monitoring, and detection of auditory stimuli. 18 52
Driving Skills Actual driving, simulated driving, simulated flight, motorcycle simulator. 25 50
Perception Detection of visual and/or auditory stimuli, time estimation, traffic hazard perception, anticipation time. 12 35
Psychomotor tasks Finger tapping, body balance, hand steadiness, drill press operation, assembly of electronic parts. 18 57
Reaction time - Choice Choice reaction time, choice reaction time with auditory distraction. 15 37
Reaction time - Simple Single known stimulus with a single response. 5 20
Tracking Pursuit tracking, compensatory tracking, critical tracking. 11 23
Vigilance Vigilance. 9 18
Visual Functions Contrast sensitivity, depth perception, smooth pursuit, saccadic peak velocity, saccadic latency, saccadic inaccuracy, nystagmus, etc. 19 63
Drowsiness Multiple sleep latency test, repeated test of sustained wakefulness. 6 13
Total 112 556
Note: Many articles covered more than one behavioral area