Study: Current legal limit still leaves impaired TX drivers on the road

New research shows drivers with blood-alcohol content levels as low as .01 percent are more likely to be culpable in fatal accidents than other drivers.

Texas law establishes harsh penalties for driving under the influence, which deters many people from getting behind the wheel when they may be over the legal blood-alcohol content limit. Unfortunately for Houston residents, new research suggests that the current legal limit may not provide a meaningful enough threshold to keep motorists safe from accidents caused by drunk drivers. People with BAC levels that are far below the legal limit may still be dangerously impaired.

Even minimal intoxication is dangerous

Numerous studies have found that drivers still show impairment below the legal limit. Most recently, a University of California, San Diego study determined that BAC levels as low as .01 percent may make a driver more likely to cause a fatal accident, according to the Huffington Post.

The study used data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. Researchers examined over 570,000 fatal collisions that occurred over 17 years. They concluded that, compared to sober drivers, even "minimally buzzed" drivers were 46 percent more likely to be officially, solely blamed for fatal accidents during the final accident report. The likelihood of blame only increased as BAC did.

The study supports the National Transportation Safety Board's 2013 recommendation that all states lower the legal limit from .08 percent to .05 percent. According to another Huffington Post article, the NTSB supported this recommendation with the following facts:

  • Studies have found that even people with a BAC of .05 percent have a much higher risk of fatal crash involvement.
  • When Europe enacted a limit of .05 percent, the number of fatal drunk driving accidents was cut in half during the following decade.
  • Over the last 15 years, drunk driving deaths have consistently accounted for about one third of roadway deaths in the U.S. This plateau suggests that further changes to state laws or enforcement efforts are necessary.

The NTSB has estimated that, if the legal limit were lowered, between 500 and 800 lives could be saved annually, according to ABC News.

Drunk driving in Texas

A lower legal limit could be impactful in Texas, which is one of the worst states in the nation for drunk driving fatalities, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. In 2012, 1,296 lives were lost in alcohol-related accidents, representing more than a third of the state's traffic deaths. Over 16,000 people were additionally injured in these accidents.

Unfortunately, the NTSB recommendation was met with mixed responses from lawmakers. ABC News also notes that the last change to the legal limit was not implemented in every state until two decades after the reduction was initially recommended. Sadly, these delays may leave Texas drivers unprotected against drunk driving accidents.

Anyone who has been hurt in an accident caused by an intoxicated driver should consider meeting with an attorney to discuss the available legal options.

Keywords: drunk driving, accident, injury