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Study: Many crash deaths due to intoxication below legal limit

In a new study, researchers found that a sizeable number of alcohol-related accidents involve drivers who are not legally impaired. In Ohio and 48 other states, the blood alcohol concentration limit is .08%. The findings were published in March 2020 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The study focused on the more than 600,000 motor vehicle crash fatalities that occurred in the U.S. between 2000 and 2015. In 37% of these accidents, at least one driver had alcohol in their blood. Of those, 15% had a driver with a BAC below .08. Researchers also found that young people were more likely to die in these crashes.

In addition, the study found that crashes occurring below the legal limit decrease by 9% in places with more restrictive alcohol policies. Other countries, for example, have adopted a legal limit of .05. Back in 2018, Utah lowered its legal limit to .05 in line with the recommendation of the National Transportation Safety Board and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

Since most studies of alcohol-related crashes focus on the drivers with a BAC of .08 and above, this new study provides a kind of breakthrough. It reveals that impairment can begin long before the legal limit is reached.

Drunk drivers can cause devastating accidents

Many motor vehicle accidents resulting in serious injuries are due to alcohol intoxication. Victims can be left with mounting medical bills and a disability that affects their capacity to earn a living. By filing a personal injury lawsuit, a victim could obtain compensation from the at-fault party’s auto insurance company, but they may want legal counsel. The lawyer may hire third parties to show that the defendant was impaired even though their BAC was below the legal limit.