Study finds that no amount of alcohol is safe for drivers

When you think about dangerous drunk drivers, you likely think of drivers with a high blood alcohol level, weaving in and out of their lanes. Although such drivers certainly pose a significant danger to other motorists, a recent study has found that even drivers with a very low blood alcohol level can significantly increase the risk of a fatal car accident.

The study was conducted by researchers from the University of California, San Diego and recently published in the journal Injury Prevention. During the study, researchers examined 570,731 fatal car accidents occurring between 1994 and 2011. The researchers used data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, which is a national computerized database of car accident data, which also includes the blood alcohol content (BAC) of each driver involved in a car accident.

As the researchers wanted to determine what effect, if any, low levels of alcohol have on a driver's ability to operate a motor vehicle in a safe manner, the researchers focused on "minimally buzzed" drivers-drivers with a BAC of .01 percent (roughly the equivalent of half a beer for an average male).

The study found that drivers with a BAC of .01 percent, which is far below the Massachusetts legal limit of .08, were 46 percent more likely to be at fault for causing a fatal car accident. Furthermore, the study disproved the theory of the "threshold effect," where the risk of drunk driver accidents suddenly jumps once a certain threshold BAC has been obtained. Instead, the researchers found that the risk of car accidents increases steadily as the driver's BAC increases.

The results of the study gives credence to the much-criticized efforts of the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) to encourage states to lower the legal limit to .05 percent. According to NTSB statistics, drivers with a BAC of .08 percent are 169 percent more likely to be involved in an accident than sober drivers. If the legal limit were lowered, the agency estimates that thousands of lives could be saved each year.

Speak with an attorney

In Massachusetts, drivers that injure others because of negligence are financially responsible for the injuries resulting from the accident, regardless of whether they face criminal charges. Whether the responsible driver was impaired by alcohol, distracted by a cellphone or driving recklessly, if you or a loved one has been injured by a negligent driver, it is wise to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can consider your situation and advise you on your right to recover damages for lost wages, medical bills and other expenses resulting from the accident.