The consequences of providing drinkers with blood alcohol concentration information on assessments of alcohol impairment and drunk-driving risk.J Stud Alcohol Drugs 2008; 69(4):539-49JS
We examined the effect of providing drinkers with blood alcohol concentration (BAC) information on subjective assessments of alcohol impairment and drunk-driving risk.
We sampled 959 drinking participants from a natural drinking environment and asked them to self-administer a personal saliva-based alcohol test. Participants then were asked to rate their alcohol impairment and to indicate whether they could drive legally under one of four BAC feedback conditions (assigned at random): (1) control condition (no BAC feedback provided before the ratings); (2) categorical BAC information (low, high, and highest risk) from the saliva test; (3) categorical BAC information corroborated by a calibrated police breath alcohol analyzer; and (4) precise (three-digit) BAC information from the breath alcohol analyzer.
Both control participants and participants who received precise BAC feedback gave subjective impairment ratings that correlated with actual BACs. For participants who received categorical BAC information from the saliva test, subjective impairment did not correlate with the actual BAC. Providing drinkers with BAC information, however, did help them predict more accurately if their BAC was higher than the legal BAC driving limit.
Although BAC information can influence drinkers' assessments of alcohol impairment and drunk-driving risk, there is no strong evidence that personal saliva-based alcohol tests are particularly useful.