One does not have to be at or past the legal definition of intoxicated to be a danger on the road, suggests a new study conducted at the University of California, San Diego. In an analysis of automobile accidents in the United States, researchers found that "buzzed" drivers – even if they aren't outright drunk – tend to be the culprit of a substantial number of collisions.
Published in the journal Injury Prevention, the report examined over 570,000 fatal collisions that occurred between 1994 and 2011 and paid particular focus on those that involved drivers with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of less than 0.08 percent – the legal limit in the U.S. One alarming finding from the study is that drivers with a BAC of only 0.01 were 46 more likely to be be blamed for an accident than the sober individual involved in the crash.
The UC San Diego researchers also found that that there was no threshold when drivers who had been drinking started to receive blame. Culpability rose steadily from a BAC of 0.01 to 0.24 percent.
According to David Phillips, the study's principal investigator, alcohol consumption and driving shouldn't be mixed in any amount.
"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 in a press release. "Our data support both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's campaign that 'Buzzed driving is drunk driving' and the recommendation made by the National Transportation Safety Board, to reduce the legal limit to BAC 0.05 percent."
Phillips also suggested that BAC should be pushed even lower.