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Not all drunk driving crashes caused by legally drunk driver

In most states, an individual must register a 0.08 blood alcohol content in order to be considered legally drunk. Legally drunk is a minimum standard that must be met in order to charge an individual with a criminal drunk driving offense, and even that depends on the circumstances. Does that mean that anything under a 0.08 limit is a safe driving BAC?

The levels below "drunk" are often referred to as "buzzed," and according to a recent study, being "buzzed" while driving can be nearly as dangerous as being legally drunk.

The study was published in the journal Injury Prevention, and it found that in car accident cases in which alcohol was involved, the driver with even a 0.01 BAC was 46 percent more likely to be found solely at fault than a sober driver. For an adult male, that would only take half of a single 12 ounce alcoholic beverage.

Advocates against drunk driving argue that there really isn't a safe limit for blood alcohol content above zero when it comes to driving and the possibility of causing a car accident. The legal limit may be 0.08, but it doesn't mean that 0.07 isn't dangerous too, they say. "Even if you are not aware of it, you are impaired after one drink," said James C. Fell with the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation.

What is important is that victims of a drunk driving accident remember that the criminal court system is completely separate from the civil court system. Criminal convictions are based on proof that an individual committed a legal crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

In the California civil court system, a driver that acted in a careless, reckless or otherwise negligent manner can be found guilty for the damages that they cause. The standard is different because the focus is on the needs of the victims not the punishment of the perpetrator.

Source: Reuters, "Buzzed drivers under legal limit still risk car accidents," Kathryn Doyle, Jan. 21, 2014

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