Trace Amounts of Alcohol Leads to Impaired Driving

On behalf of Gary Nitsche

Addiction Journal states that according to the Fatality Analysis Reporting Systems (FARS), nearly 1.5 million people were involved in a fatal car crash between 1994 and 2008. This is approximately 100,000 people a year, 274 per day and roughly 11 an hour.

While these statistics are troubling by themselves, according to David Phillips of the University of California, San Diego, when even a slight amount of alcohol was present in the driver, an accident could be up to 36.6 percent more severe. Phillips reports that even with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.01, the probability is higher for additional serious injuries per wreck than if both drivers had no alcohol in their system.

Factors Contributing to Higher Severity

Phillips analyzed the entire FARS dataset and discovered several trends he believes explains the link between even low levels of alcohol and increased severity in accidents. Drivers with BAC levels well below the legal limit were:

  • Shown to drive at much faster speeds than sober drivers
  • Less likely to wear a seatbelt
  • More likely to be driving the vehicle which initiated the accident

It follows, perhaps not surprisingly, that Phillips' study also showed the higher a driver's BAC, the faster they were likely to be driving, the more severe the car or motorcycle accident was.

Timing, Location and Prevention

According to Phillips' study, the most severe crashes occurred between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. on the weekends, primarily between June and August.

Additionally, according to a 2002 study completed at Texas A&M University's Center for Alcohol and Drug Education Studies, 38 percent of all traffic deaths involve alcohol. This percentage increased was higher in the south all year long, as well as in colder states during the winter.

Finally, while a person is always at risk while on the road, there are many ways to reduce the chances of becoming a FARS statistic. People should avoid driving late at night — especially on the weekends — and should know how quickly alcohol can affect their body.

Unfortunately, accidents will continue to occur and many of them will more than likely include alcohol. People are encouraged to contact an experiences car or motorcycle accident attorney if involved in a wreck to discuss their rights and possible claims.

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