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‘Buzzed drivers’ at risk for severe crashes: study

June 22, 2011

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San Diego – Consuming even a small amount of alcohol may be enough to impair driving, indicates research from the University of California, San Diego.

The legal blood-alcohol content limit for drivers in the United States is 0.08 percent, but an analysis of data from the Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System showed alcohol levels below that limit were associated with severe motor vehicle crashes.

Crashes were 36.6 percent more severe even when only trace amounts of alcohol were detected in the driver’s blood, according to a UCSD press release. With a BAC of 0.01, 4.33 serious injuries occurred for every non-serious injury, compared with 3.17 for sober drivers.

Study authors cited three reasons for their finding: “buzzed drivers” are more likely to speed, wear their safety belts incorrectly and drive the vehicle responsible for an accident. They also found a strong “dose response” relationship with those factors, meaning the higher the BAC, the higher the average speed of the driver and severity of the crash.

The study appeared online June 20 in the journal Addiction.

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