Effects of prolonged wakefulness combined with alcohol and hands-free cell phone divided attention tasks on simulated driving

A Iudice, E Bonanni, A Gelli, C Frittelli, G Iudice, F Cignoni, I Ghicopulos, L Murri
Human Psychopharmacology 2005, 20 (2): 125-32
Simulated driving ability was assessed following administration of alcohol, at an estimated blood level of 0.05%, and combined prolonged wakefulness, while participants were undertaking divided attention tasks over a hands-free mobile phone. Divided attention tasks were structured to provide a sustained cognitive workload to the subjects. Twenty three young healthy individuals drove 10 km simulated driving under four conditions in a counterbalanced, within-subject design: alcohol, alcohol and 19 h wakefulness, alcohol and 24 h wakefulness, and while sober. Study measures were: simulated driving, self-reported sleepiness, critical flicker fusion threshold (CFFT), Stroop word-colour interference test (Stroop) and simple visual reaction times (SVRT). As expected, subjective sleepiness was highly correlated with both sleep restriction and alcohol consumption. The combination of alcohol and 24 h sustained wakefulness produced the highest driving impairment, significantly beyond the alcohol effect itself. Concurrent alcohol and 19 h wakefulness significantly affected only driving time-to-collision. No significant changes of study measures occurred following alcohol intake in unrestricted sleep conditions. CFFT, SVRT and Stroop results showed a similar trend in the four study conditions. Thus apparently 'safe' blood alcohol levels in combination with prolonged wakefulness resulted in significant driving impairments. In normal sleep conditions alcohol effects on driving were partially counteracted by the concomitant hands-free phone based psychometric tasks.

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