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Study finds no amount of alcohol is safe when getting behind the wheel

Driver Blowing into Vehicle Alcohol Ignition Interlock System

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It is commonly known that drunk drivers pose a significant danger to other motorists. Most people assume that it takes a blood alcohol content (BAC) at or above the legal limit of .08 percent before a driver is intoxicated enough to become a threat. However, this is not the case according to a new study from the University of California, San Diego, which found that even those with a low BAC are at a much greater risk of being in a fatal car accident.

The study, recently published in Injury Prevention, analyzed 570,731 fatal car accidents that took place between 1994 and 2011. To focus on alcohol’s role in fatal car accidents, researchers obtained the data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. This is an electronic database containing police reports of each accident.
From the reports, the researchers were able to learn certain facts surrounding the accident, including the driver at fault and the BAC of the parties involved. Since the goal of the research was to study the role that low levels of alcohol play in fatal car accidents, the researchers focused on accidents involving drivers with a BAC of .01 percent, which an adult male obtains by consuming approximately half a beer.
The research found that, despite being well below the legal limit of .08 percent, drivers with a .01 percent BAC had a 46 percent greater likelihood of being at fault in a fatal car accident than sober drivers. Additionally, the study found that a driver’s likelihood of being at fault for the accident increased steadily as his or her BAC increased from .01 percent. This finding runs counter to the “threshold effect” theory-where a driver’s risk of causing an accident suddenly jumps once a certain amount of alcohol has been consumed-that is often used to justify a higher legal limit of .08 percent, rather than a lower one.
The research is the first of its kind to find that no level of alcohol is safe before driving. Its results will no doubt provide fodder for the National Transportation Safety Board‘s recent efforts in requesting states to pass legislation lowering the legal limit to .05 percent.

An attorney can help

Regardless of whether the Illinois legislature acts to lower the legal limit, drivers that injure others because alcohol has impaired their ability to drive in a safe manner can be held civilly liable for the injuries they cause. Under the law, injured parties may recover damages for medical bills, loss of wages and property damage. If an inebriated driver has injured you or a loved one, a personal injury attorney can work to ensure that the party responsible for the accident is held accountable.

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