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New study concludes any amount of alcohol may contribute to unsafe driving

We all know drinking and driving is a major cause of serious injuries and fatal car accidents. In Louisiana and across much of the United States the blood alcohol limit is 0.08 percent. Driving with a blood alcohol content below 0.08 percent is legal and believed to be safe; however, a new study challenges that idea and concludes that any amount of alcohol before driving is unsafe.

The new study, conducted by two sociologists at the University of California, San Diego, suggests there is no safe blood alcohol content when behind the wheel and that driving while buzzed significantly increases the risk of serious injury and death.

The researchers used the data in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System which keeps track of every fatal car accident in the United States. The system also tabulates the blood alcohol content of each driver. The researchers looked at the association between the severity of the car crashes in the system and the blood alcohol content of the drivers.

The researchers found that car crashes that involved drivers with a blood alcohol content of only 0.01 percent were 37 percent more severe than accidents involving only sober drivers. A blood alcohol content of 0.01 percent is the equivalent of a 180 pound man drinking one beer over two hours. The researchers also found for every 0.01 percent that the blood alcohol content of the driver increased so did the severity of the crash and the speed of the vehicle.

The purpose of the study was to make legislators in the United States think about current blood alcohol limits and current ideas of safety.

Source: Time, "Driving while buzzed: No amount of alcohol is safe behind the wheel," Meredith Melnick, 6/22/11

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