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Car accident risk increases even with small amounts of alcohol

There is no genuine dispute about the dangers of drunk driving. Intoxicated drivers are far more likely to cause car accidents and inflict severe personal injuries on innocent people than are sober drivers.

But what about so-called "buzzed drivers," drivers with small amounts of alcohol in their systems, but well within the legal limit for driving? A recent study suggests that these buzzed drivers are also at increased risk for causing crashes when compared with sober drivers.

Miami car accident attorneys have been very interested to see the results of the study performed by researchers at UCSD. The researchers looked at car accident injuries nationwide between 1994 and 2008. When they compared the rate of serious injury to non-serious injuries, they found that drivers with any amount of alcohol in their systems were 36.6 percent more likely to cause serious injuries than sober drivers were.

To put it another way, the rate of serious to non-serious injury was 3.17 serious injuries for every non-serious injury caused by sober drivers, but 4.33 serious injuries for every non-serious injury for drivers who had consumed alcohol before driving.

The researchers had theories for why, specifically, the buzzed drivers were more likely to inflict serious injuries. These included the tendency of buzzed drivers to speed, which increases the severity of injuries in a crash; the increased tendency of buzzed drivers who are in accidents to be in the vehicle that strikes another vehicle or an object; and the fact that, statistically, buzzed drivers tend not to wear seat belts or to implement them improperly.

Many countries have lower maximum blood-alcohol levels for drivers than can be found in Florida or the rest of the United States. The researchers suggested in their study that state governments should consider lowering the legal limit even further as a way to help prevent serious car accidents.

Source: U.S. News & World Report "Even One Glass of Beer, Wine Boosts Car Crash Risk: Study" 6/24/2011

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