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"Buzzed" Drivers and Texas Car Accidents

In Texas and across the country, drunk driving carries criminal consequences when the blood-alcohol limit is above a certain cut-off point. For several years, that point, for adult drivers, has been 0.08 percent. The standard is different for commercial drivers, as well as for teenage drivers.

It needs to be better understood, however, what a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0/08 percent really means. It functions as a threshold intoxication level for criminal consequences. But it certainly doesn't imply that a blood-alcohol content reading below the cutoff is safe.

A better understanding of this fact will help shed light on the causes of many alcohol-related accidents.

A recent study published in Addiction, an academic journal, provided quantitative evidence that even consuming a relatively small amount of alcohol - one beer, for example - is statistically associated with an increased risk of injuries and death.

The study was done by two researchers at the University of California, San Diego. They used data from a database called the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). This database tracks car accident fatalities, with information about BAC in increments of 0.01 percent.

The researchers looked at fatal accidents between 1994 and 2008. Nearly 1.5 million (1,495,667) people were in the database for those years.

The findings were that even when drivers were not legally intoxicated but were"buzzed" - with a BAC of just 0.01 percent - they were involved in accidents that were significantly more severe (37 percent more severe) than accidents involving drivers who were completely sober.

Buzzed drivers, the research suggests, are more likely to speed. When two vehicles collide, the buzzed driver is also more likely to be driving the "striking vehicle" than a sober driver.

Source: "Driving While Buzzed: No Amount of Alcohol Is Safe Behind the Wheel," Time, 6-22-11

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