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Study: Drinking Even Small Amounts of Alcohol Increases Crash Risk

Cranwell & Moore P.L.C. Feb. 14, 2023

A study published in the Injury Prevention journal found that consuming even minimal amounts of alcohol increases drivers’ crash risk.

When people in Virginia enjoy libations, they may be faced with choosing whether to get behind the wheel. A symptom of their impairment, many mistakenly believe they have not had too much to drink to still drive safely. Unfortunately, this may lead to them getting into auto accidents, which may result in serious injuries or death for themselves and the occupants of any other vehicles that are involved. In fact, a study published in the journal, Injury Prevention found that drinking even small amounts of alcohol may significantly increase people’s risk of being involved in serious or fatal collisions.

How Does Alcohol Affect Drivers?

Once consumed and absorbed into the bloodstream, alcohol may have a range of effects on the human body, which may affect drivers’ ability to safely operate their vehicles. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some of the most common effects of drinking alcohol include the following:

  • Loss of small-muscle control and deteriorated muscle coordination

  • Slowed thought processes

  • Impaired self-control, judgment, reasoning and memory

  • Exaggerated behaviors

  • Decreased alertness

  • Released inhibitions

Due to these and other reactions resulting from alcohol consumption, drivers’ ability to track moving objects, perform multiple tasks at the same time or divide their attention, and process information may be compromised. Additionally, these effects may cause them to have difficulties steering, maintaining lane position and braking appropriately.

The Link Between Alcohol Consumption and Accident Blame

Led by researchers from the University of California, San Diego, a recent study sought to understand whether people being assigned official blame for causing motor vehicle collisions increases notable when their blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, levels reach 0.01 percent. To accomplish this, they analyzed data from the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System database for crashes occurring between 1994 and 2011. Looking at 570,731 auto accidents, the researchers focused primarily on those drivers with BAC levels of between 0.01 and 0.07 percent.

Based on the study’s findings, there does not appear to be any amount of alcohol consumption that is safe for drivers. With a BAC level of 0.01 percent, the researchers’ analysis showed a 46 percent greater chance that people would be solely and officially blamed for causing an accident as compared to the sober drivers with whom they crashed. As people’s BAC increased from 0.01 to 0.24 percent, the study found that so too did their assessment as officially to blame for causing the collisions. Further, the increase was steady and there was no point at which people suddenly transitioned from being faultless to them being at-fault.

Seeking Legal Guidance

Alcohol-involved accidents in Virginia and elsewhere may result in serious injuries for the drunk drivers themselves, as well as for their passengers and the occupants of other vehicles. When such injuries require medical treatment, people may incur undue expenses and, if they must take time off work to recover, also lose income. Depending on the circumstances, however, the motorists who cause such wrecks may be held responsible. Therefore, those who have been involved in drunk driving collisions may benefit from consulting with an attorney to learn more about their rights and options.