Putting drunk driving to the test
The standard sobriety tests that are given to suspected drunk drivers by police across the country originated with a small Los Angeles organization called the Southern California Research Institute.
In the photo above, which ran in the Los Angeles Times on March 20, 1977, a research assistant sits at the wheel of a driving simulator that was used by the Southern California Research Institute to test reactions to drugs and alcohol. The photo was taken by Times photographer John Malmis.
The institute was the brainchild of Herbert Moskowitz, an experimental psychologist who led pioneering research on the effects of alcohol and drugs. The institute’s work helped produce standardized field sobriety tests and pushed policymakers to set lower legal limits for intoxicated driving.
Moskowitz devised rigorous experiments, including the early use of driving simulators, that demonstrated drivers’ growing impairment as they consumed increasing amounts of alcohol. His research found that even a single drink, a much smaller amount than previously believed, could significantly slow the brain and raise drivers’ risk of a crash.
The Southern California Research Institute continued to produce leading research on drunken, drugged and drowsy driving, as well as intoxicated boating, into the 21st century. The organization closed after Moskowitz died in 2012.
- Tags: From the Archives
March 8, 2016, 7:42 pm
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