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Study finds even trace of alcohol heightens risk of accidents

Saying a drunk driver is more likely to get into a car accident than a sober driver is as obvious as saying a cheetah would win a sprint against a tortoise. But here's what might surprise you: according to a new study, even a few sips of alcohol can greatly increase the likelihood of a severe auto accident.

A new study by researchers at the University of California at San Diego arrives at startling conclusions thanks to massive amounts of data. After looking at federal statistics from every county in the United States for fatal car accidents from 1994 to 2008, researchers found that even drivers with a blood-alcohol content of .01 were more likely to get into a severe crash.

In this country, the legal limit is .08, but in other countries it's much lower, and the study hints that they may be onto something. According to ABC News, the study looked at nearly 1.5 million fatal crashes, which occurred at any time of day and any day of the week. They found that the severity of an accident was greatly increased if the driver was merely "buzzed," or had maybe half a beer.

The study also finds that accidents are over 35 percent more severe when any amount of alcohol is in the driver's blood, even if the amount is barely detectable. And, the more alcohol in a driver's system, the more likely they are to speed, collide with another vehicle and fail to properly restrain themselves in their vehicle.

According to ABC, the researchers think their data constitutes a lowered legal limit nationwide. It seems possible - raw data doesn't lie, and the U.S. may follow other countries' lead in lowering the limit in the hopes of reducing traffic deaths.

Source: ABC News, "Drunk driving: even a trace of alcohol is dangerous on the road, says study," Lee Dye, 22 June 2011

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