Intoxicated drivers who are under the legal limit for alcohol in their state can still pose a hazard on the road, according to a study from the University of California.
Researchers studied records of 570,000 auto collisions that took place between 1994 and 2011. They examined accidents where one driver was clearly at fault, such as running a stop sign.
David Phillips led the research comparing these accidents to the blood alcohol level (BAC) of drivers involved in the incidents. They found that drivers who had a BAC of just .01 were 46 percent more likely than alcohol-free drivers to be at fault in these accidents. That level of blood alcohol is equivalent to an average adult male drinking half of a 12-ounce beer. As alcohol concentrations increase, so do the chances of being at-fault in a car accident.
A blood alcohol limit of .15 was the first legal maximum established in the United States, during the 1930’s. States eventually lowered the limit to .10 and .08 in the ensuing decades. In most of Europe, a BAC of .05 is the legal maximum. This study suggests even those limits may be too high.
“For the individual driver it means don’t drive while buzzed, and for a passenger, don’t get in a car with a driver who is buzzed. Find a way to make the sober one the driver,” Phillips said.