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Who here has heard the phrase “buzzed driving is still drunk driving”? It’s one that that we all believe on some level does hold weight, but fail to give it the reverence it deserves for whatever reason (most likely that it just about nixes 75% of weekend dinner plans for eligible drivers around the U.S.). We wholeheartedly believe, oftentimes with a biased slant, that when we take leave of the local TGIF’s or dive bar that the warm hum nipping at our peripheries won’t affect our driving skills. According to the law, you’d be right—if below a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level of 0.08, you’re good to drive! The available data tells a different story.

According to a recent study conducted by researchers at UC San Diego and published in the British Medical Journal group’s Injury Prevention, drivers who operate a vehicle with as little as 0.01 BAC levels are 46% more likely to carry the blame for accidents involving other drivers. Furthermore, researchers found a steadily-increasing correlation between higher BAC numbers and higher percentages of blame. Aside from the obvious, this means there is an absent threshold whereby a certain number of drinks consumed will suddenly turn men and women into maniacal Hydes on the highway—the data points to the revealing fact that automobile accidents involving inebriated operators start at one drink, the point at which a person considers themselves “minimally buzzed” (or 0.01 BAC).570,731 fatal collisions from 1994 to 2011 were used for the study.

According to UC San Diego’s David Phillips, head researcher and co-author of the study:

The findings are unequivocal. We find no safe combination of drinking and driving – no point at which it is harmless to consume alcohol and get behind the wheel of a car. Our data support both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s campaign that ‘Buzzed driving is drunk driving’ and the recommendation made by the National Transportation Safety Board, to reduce the legal limit to BAC 0.05 percent. In fact, our data provide support for yet greater reductions in the legal BAC.

Despite all the evidence, judges, police, and the general public continue to hail the current 0.08 legal limit almost as if it were a decree by some demigod. If the National Transportation Safety Board is successful in its venture to reduce the legal limit (the article states that worldwide, there are over 100 countries currently set at lower legal limits), then we might very well begin to turn the tide of public opinion with regards to the ignorance associated with drunk/buzzed driving, and maybe even save some lives in the process—not necessarily in that order.

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