“I’m not drunk, I’m just a little buzzed.” It’s a statement that people may have heard someone say in Memphis. It is a justification that might be used by someone who has had a couple of alcoholic drinks and then decides to drive home. The truth is that someone who is only buzzed might even pass a breathalyzer test and avoid arrest, but does having a blood alcohol content below 0.08 mean that a person can operate a vehicle safely?
Alcohol impairs. It is a known fact, and there is no doubt that the more alcohol that one drinks, the more likely their vision, reaction-time, decision-making ability and other faculties could become or will become impaired. A recent study published in the journal Injury Prevention found that the statement “alcohol impairs” applies to any level of consumption, making even a small amount of impairment a danger to others on the road.
The study used data from across the United States that was collected between the years 1994 and 2011 involving over 570,000 fatal car crashes. Researchers found that even those with only a 0.01 BAC were 46 percent more likely to be found solely at fault for an accident when the other driver was sober.
As for personal injury lawsuits, a driver can be held liable for damages caused even if they were only “buzzed.” The standard for civil tort liability is that of a reasonable person. Even if a person never directly intended injury, this standard includes instances in which the individual should have known that their actions were likely to cause physical harm to another.
Phillips, the lead author of the study, argued that maybe criminal laws should be amended to better fit this model where alcohol is concerned. “The lower we can make the legal BAC, the safer everyone will be,” he noted.
Source: Reuters, “Buzzed drivers under legal limit still risk car accidents,” Kathryn Doyle, Jan. 21, 2014