Sammi Kane Kraft, 'Bad News Bears' Actress, Killed By Drunk Driver: How Does Alcohol Impair Your Driving?

By Amir Khan on October 11, 2012 3:09 PM EDT

Alcohol
Actress Sammi Kane Kraft, best known for her role as Amanda Whurlitzer in "Bad News Bears," was killed by a drunk driver on Tuesday in California. (Photo: Reuters)

Actress Sammi Kane Kraft, best known for her role as Amanda Whurlitzer in "Bad News Bears," was killed by a drunk driver on Tuesday in California. She was 20-years-old. Kraft was a passenger in a car driving near Crenshaw Boulevard when the car rear-ended a truck and was then hit by another car. She was pronounced dead at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Molly Kate Adams, the 21-year-old driver of the car Kraft was in, survived but was arrested on suspicion of felony drunk driving. But just how badly does alcohol impair your driving ability?

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Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it slows down the activity of your central nervous system and leads to slower reaction times, according to the University of Texas at San Antonio. It also affects your ability to shift your attention from one point to another.

"Alcohol impairs a driver's ability to concentrate on the multiple tasks involved in driving, such as vehicle speed, position of the vehicle, other traffic on the road, tuning the radio, and participating in conversation with passengers," according to a report by the UTSA.

Alcohol also impairs a driver's ability to interpret signals, which can be deadly while driving.

"Alcohol impairs the driver's ability to "interpret" situations, signs, and/or signals which a driver must understand and/or respond to quickly to be safe on the road," the report says. "[This] leaves the driver easily confused and not able to respond to emergency situations or to comprehend the meaning of simple signals (ie: running through a stop sign)."

But while most people expect these effects to occur after a night of heavy drinking, a study by Texas A&M University's Center for Alcohol and Drug Education Studies found that even one or two beers could impair your judgment and lead to a crash.

"In Texas and 20 other states, the blood alcohol concentration level to be legally intoxicated is .08," Dr. Maurice Dennis, a researcher from Texas A&M, said in a statement. "But we found that persons who registered a .04 - one-half the amount it takes to be legally intoxicated - had significant impairment in their driving abilities."

The results of the study showed the importance of remaining completely sober if you are driving.

"In a nutshell, what it means is you don't have to be staggering, fall-down drunk to have driving problems if you've drinking," Dennis said. "A very small amount can affect your driving ability and especially the decisions you make while driving. A person may think to himself or herself, 'I've only had a couple of beers so I can drive okay,' but their judgment can be severely affected and they don't even know it."

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