San Diego, CA- We know that drunken driving is the cause of nearly one-third of all fatal accidents throughout the U.S. It is easy to get the impression that these deadly accidents are caused by drivers who are highly intoxicated, but a new study shows that that even minimally drunk or “buzzed” drivers—those with a BAC of .01 or higher—are just as responsible for serious accidents as heavily intoxicated drivers.
Researchers at the University of California- San Diego analyzed federal fatal crash data between the years of 1994 and 2011 and found that even drivers with low blood alcohol levels are just as likely to cause a fatal or injurious accident.
The study focused on drivers who were minimally drunk or “buzzed,” with a blood alcohol content of .01 to .07 and found that these drivers were 46 percent more likely to be blamed for an accident by investigators than sober drivers.
UC San Diego sociologist David Phillips, Ph.D., who led the study, which was published in the British Medical Journal group’s “Injury Prevention” told NBC San Diego, “There is no blood-alcohol content so low that it is safe to drive.”
Researchers also found “no sudden transition from blameless to blamed,” and; instead found that as blood alcohol level increases from .01 to .24, blame for the accident also increases.
Philips pointed out that road tests have shown drivers perform poorly even when they have only had one drink.
Phillips also said that the judicial system and the public typically treat the .08 BAC limit as “a sharp, definitive, meaningful boundary,” and those individuals with low BAC’s rarely face severe legal consequences if they cause a fatal or serious traffic accident. He recommends that the legal limit be reduced to .05, which is also the recommendation of the NTSB, but warned that it is not safe for a person to driver regardless of how little alcohol they have consumed.
“We find no safe combination of drinking and driving — no point at which it is harmless to consume alcohol and get behind the wheel of a car,” Phillips said. He believes in a no-tolerance approach to drinking and driving but understands that culturally, it would be difficult to lower the legal threshold.
“I would say if public policy were determine entirely by scientific evidence, the data justifies not having any alcohol in you at all while driving,” Phillips explained to NBC. “But, since public policy is determined not just by scientific data, but by cultural factors, the compromise position may be to lower blood-alcohol content to 0.05 like most of Europe.”
Drunken drivers who have surpassed the legal threshold and cause a serious accident are not only criminally responsible for their actions but can also be held accountable for the injuries that result from their negligence. Drinking and driving no matter how the amount of alcohol a driver has consumed is clearly negligent and an accident attorney will work diligently to assure they compensate the people they have harmed.

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