If you think it’s safe to drive if you are only slightly buzzed, here’s some sobering news: A study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that one in seven alcohol-related motor vehicle deaths involved a driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) below the legal limit of 0.08 percent. It analyzed data from 223,471 crashes in the U.S. from 2000 through 2015 that involved an alcohol-impaired driver.
The study also found that states with more restrictive alcohol policies (such as higher taxes on alcohol and zero tolerance rules for drivers under 21) had lower odds of crashes involving drivers with below-limit BACs than states with weaker alcohol policies.
Impairment actually begins much lower than the 0.08 percent limit for driving under the influence—at around 0.03 percent—and some health and transportation authorities in the U.S. have urged for the cutoff for drunk driving to be 0.05 percent, a step already taken by a number of other countries, with resultant declines in motor vehicle deaths. Among U.S. states, only Utah has enacted the lower limit.
This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.
Also see Drive High, Get a DUI?