Feeling a Slight “Buzz”? Don’t Reach for Your Car Keys Just Yet

These days, everyone knows the dangers of drinking and driving. But what if the amount of alcohol you’ve drunk is below Texas’s legal limit of 0.08 percent BAC (blood alcohol concentration)? You know if you got into your car and drove, you wouldn’t be breaking any DUI laws. But have you ever wondered how that small amount of alcohol might affect your driving?

It turns out that driving while “minimally buzzed” may have a very serious effect on your ability to drive your car. A study released last year by researchers at the University of California, San Diego and published in the medical journal Injury Prevention found that drivers who drove while “minimally buzzed” – that is, with a BAC of 0.01 percent, well below the legal limit of 0.08 percent – were 46 percent more likely to be officially blamed as being the sole cause of an accident by investigators than the sober drivers with whom they collided.

The study, which used data from the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) database to analyze over 570 fatal traffic accidents between 1994 and 2011, also found there was no “threshold effect”. In other words, there was no transition point between blamelessness and blame at the legal limit. Instead, blame steadily increased as BAC levels rose.

What do these results mean for the driver who drinks just a little and stays below the legal limit? There is no safe combination of drinking and driving, no matter how little you drink. As the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s campaign puts it, buzzed driving is drunk driving.