Drunk driving is a serious issue in the US. In 2018 alone, the number of alcohol-impaired fatal crashes stood at 3.2 per 100,000 in population. The National Transportation Highway Safety Administration (NTHSA) estimates that there were 10,511 killed in alcohol-related crashes that involved a driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of over .08, or 1/8th of 1%, is the legal limit in all 50 states. Of that number, 67% of them had at least one driver with a BAC of .15 or nearly twice the legal limit.
Why is the BAC an issue? It’s because of the way alcohol affects an individual’s behavior and actions. Having a drink or two is fine if you’re not driving a car, a boat, or operating heavy machinery. But when your judgment and specific motor skills need to be at their best, alcohol can change even the best driver into a danger behind the wheel. The affected driver is a danger to anyone on the road, including sober drivers who are paying attention.
The blood alcohol concentration (also called blood alcohol content or blood alcohol level) is the percentage of alcohol in someone’s blood. The number means 0.08 grams per deciliter of alcohol for every 100 mg of blood, and the legal limit for intoxication. Anything over .08 is increasingly intoxicated, and a BAC of .40 has the potential for being fatal.
Blood alcohol concentration does not need to be .08 for it to affect a person’s driving or to be arrested for DUI. If you exhibit symptoms of intoxication, a police officer can arrest you based on his or her judgment.
How BAC Affects Your Driving
Many people believe that “one or two drinks” won’t matter much, especially if they have cocktails with dinner. But the truth is it doesn’t take much for you to become impaired, even if it’s not to the point of slurred speech or the inability to keep control of the vehicle.
Even small amounts of alcohol can have an impact on driving a vehicle, also if you believe you aren’t impaired. Alcohol.org breaks down the levels of impairment by percentage:
- At .02%, relaxation and slight body warmth begin, as well as changes in mood and the beginnings of poor choices in judgment.
- At .05% (the legal limit in Utah), there is more loss of control. A person begins speaking louder and loses the ability to control small muscles and have less coordination, which is why vision becomes blurry. Visually tracking objects in your path are also reduced, lowering your reaction time. Lowered inhibitions lead to engaging in risky behavior, such as driving under the influence.
- At .08%, the symptoms increase, including coordination, speech, hearing, balance, and reaction times are reduced, as well as reasoning, memory, concentration, judgment, and self-control. A person intoxicated at this level may also start to experience short-term memory loss.
- At .10%, intoxication symptoms increase further, with more slurred speech, slowed reaction time, physical coordination, as well as thinking and reasoning.
- At 15%, walking and talking become difficult due to decreased control of balance and coordination. Vomiting may begin at this point, as well as the possibility of falling and becoming injured.
- At .20% to 29%, blackouts occur, and a person may sober up and not remember participating in activities. Nausea and vomiting occur, and the gag reflex is impaired, leading to the possibility of choking. A person will become “dazed and confused” and can’t walk without assistance. Injury is more likely, as well as the individual not realizing that he or she has been injured due to lowered pain perception.
- At .30% to .39%, the symptoms increase. Unconsciousness, irregular breathing, increases in heart rate, and a total loss of understanding develop along with the possibility of death.
- At 40%, a coma or sudden death is highly possible when breathing or the heart stops.
Many people believe that “driving slowly” is safe after having a few drinks. However, there is no “safe level” of alcohol, and even “post-alcohol” driving can include the same impairment as driving while under the influence.
The safest bet is to avoid alcohol when you’re getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.
Charleston’s Accident Attorney
Accidents involving alcohol can be devastating for individuals hit by a drunk driver.
Attorney Chad Love has been helping accident victims in the Charleston area for over 20 years. If you’ve been involved in an auto accident, contact us at The Love Law Firm or call us at (304) 344 5683. Your consultation is free, and we only collect if we win your case.