Sobering Study: Many Alcohol-Related Crashes Involve Drivers Below Legal Drinking Limit

Twenty years ago, President Bill Clinton signed into law a measure that established a national legal threshold for drinking and driving. The legislation forced Michigan and 30 other states to lower the threshold from a BAC (blood alcohol content) of .10 percent to .08 percent, meaning that anyone with a .08 percent BAC and above faced drunk driving charges.

Michigan has stuck with that standard since, but new research shows that it is time for lawmakers here and across the nation to consider lowering the threshold again. According to a study recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 15 percent of alcohol-related fatal motor vehicle crashes involved drivers below the legal limit of .08 percent BAC.

More than half of the deaths in those crashes were people other than the drinking driver. The study also showed that the wrecks were more likely to involve youth fatalities than the crashes involving drivers above the legal limit.

“Our study challenges the popular misconception that alcohol-involved crashes primarily affect drinking drivers, or that BACs below the legal limit don’t matter,” a researcher said.

An article on ScienceDaily stated cognitive impairment begins as low as a BAC of .03 percent.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the National Transportation Safety Board recommend lowering the legal blood alcohol content limit from.08 percent to.05 percent – a step Utah took two years ago.

In Europe, the legal limit is .05 percent, except in the UK, where it remains at .08 percent. According to research there, motor vehicle accidents caused by drunk drivers have declined.

As most of our readers understand, alcohol consumption seriously erodes a person’s ability to drive, including the following:

  • Slows reaction times: drinking increases the time it takes drivers to respond to events (a car pulls in front of them or unexpectedly brakes sharply, etc.), meaning that the likelihood of a crash increases as well.
  • Diminishes coordination: telltale signs of reduced motor skills (eye, hand, foot coordination) including swaying and an inability stand straight.
  • Decreased vision: alcohol can blur vision and it makes it more difficult to accurately judge distances between your vehicle and others, and it also reduces peripheral vision (what you see to the side).

Alcohol also erodes your ability to concentrate and your sense of judgement (assessment of risk and potential problems).

If a Detroit metro area driver has harmed you or a loved one, it is important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney for help protecting your rights and pursuing compensation.