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Preventing Atlanta Drunk Driving Crashes: What Is A Safe Blood Alcohol Concentration?

The blood-alcohol limit while driving in Georgia and throughout the United States is 0.08%.  In Georgia, it is not illegal to drive with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) under 0.08%, but is it safe?
 
This week, a study published in the journal Addiction implied that any amount of alcohol can pose a danger while driving.  In fact, the authors say that just one beer is enough to cause a deadly Georgia DWI accident.  
 
The study was conducted by two demographers at the University of California, San Diego's Department of Sociology.  The researchers used injury and fatality data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) database, which tracks every car accident in the U.S. that involves at least one fatality. The FARS database is unique because it includes drivers' BAC (in 0.01% increments) and includes all fatal car crashes occurring in all U.S. counties, at every time of the day, every day of the week. It is the comprehensive database of fatal crashes.
 
The researchers looked at records from 1994 to 2008 involving 1,495,667 people.  They found that drivers who had even as little as one alcoholic drink before driving were more significantly more likely than sober drivers to be involved in fatal car crashes.  Overall, car crashes involving drivers who drank were more severe than those involving  completely sober drivers.
 
The rdemographers then focused on the relationship between a drivers' BAC and the severity of a car accident.  Because all accidents included in FARS are fatal, they are all considered severe. So the researchers calculated severity as the ratio of severe to nonsevere injuries.  They correlated this measure of severity with the driver's BAC.
 
The authors found that severity of accidents increased dramatically when alcohol was present in the blood - even when the driver's BAC was only 0.01%.  This would be the amount of alcohol in the blood of a 180-lb man who had one beer over the course two hours.  Most people would not consider that a single drink over the course of a meal could affect their driving, but at a BAC of .01, the average accident was 37% more severe than those accidents involving sober drivers.
 
Car accidents involving sober drivers averaged 3.17 severe injuries for every minor injury.  Car accidents involving a driver with a BAC of 0.01% averaged 4.33 severe injuries for every minor injury. And for every 0.01% BAC increase, the average severity of crash injuries also increased.
 
Why does alcohol affect accident rates?
 
The researchers also found that drivers who are buzzed or drunk are less likely to wear a seat belt and more likely to speed than drivers who are sober.  In fact, average speed at the time of the crash was strongly correlated with BAC level.  The more a driver drinks, the faster they are likely to drive.
 
The authors hope that the study will influence lawmakers to reduce the legal blood alcohol limit for drivers.  In Japan, it is illegal to drive with a BAC greater than .02.
 
Regardless of the driver's BAC, if you have been injured or have lost a loved one to a driver who has been drinking, you have legal rights.  Atlanta DUI injury attorney Shane Smith fights for the rights of Georgia DUI victims.  If you would like to discuss your case with an Atlanta DUI injury attorney, contact the Law Offices of Shane Smith at 770-HURT-999.


Shane Smith
Advocate for the Seriously Injured in Georgia