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Driving while 'buzzed' and car accident risk, part 1: research

The fact that drunk driving and drugged driving cause many car accidents is undeniable.

As we discussed most recently in our January 3 post, impaired driving can take several different forms. The impairment could be because of alcohol. It could be because of drugs. And it could also be because of a combination of alcohol and drugs.

It is important to recognize, however, that even if impairment by alcohol falls short of the legal limit for drunk driving, it still increases the risk that car accidents will occur. In this two-part post, then, we will discuss the notion of "buzzed" driving.

A new research study has found that even drivers with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) level of .01 are more likely to be solely responsible for causing a crash than the sober drivers they run into.

The lead author of the study was University of California - San Diego sociologist David Phillips. He and his research team analyzed accidents in an extensive national database that covered the years from 1994 to 2011.

There were more than 570,000 total accidents in the database. The researchers focused their study on collisions in which someone died.

In addition to BAC, they also looked at other basic indications of fault, including running a red light or driving the wrong way.

After analyzing these factors, the researchers concluded that even a relatively slight impairment from alcohol is still an impairment that increases the risk that a car accident will occur.

In part two of this post, we will discuss how this finding relates to drunk-driving prevention efforts.

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

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