Current legal BAC limit leaves New Yorkers exposed to dangerous drivers


Research indicates that drivers show impairments and are more likely to cause fatal accidents at blood-alcohol content levels that are currently legal.


Drunk driving has become less prevalent in recent years, but it remains a significant threat to people in Newburgh. People who chose to drive drunk caused 29 percent of New York traffic fatalities in 2012, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Though the state has several measures in place to protect drivers, from sobriety checkpoints to mandatory ignition interlock installation, research suggests there is still another change the state could benefit from making: reducing the legal limit.


Data supporting a lower limit

Many people may believe the current legal blood-alcohol content limit represents a meaningful threshold, which implies that driving at lower blood-alcohol content levels is unconditionally safe. However, there is plenty of evidence that drivers with BAC levels below the legal limit can still be dangerous.


Many New Yorkers remember the National Transportation Safety Board's 2013 recommendation that all states lower the legal limit. According to NBC News, the recommendation was backed by the following data:


  • At a BAC level of .05 percent, drivers are 39 percent more likely to get into accidents. Some drivers show issues with crucial visual capabilities, such as depth perception, at this level of intoxication.
  • People also demonstrate impaired cognitive abilities at a BAC level currently below the legal limit, .07 percent.
  • When Australia enacted the same change, decreasing the BAC level from .08 to .05 percent, traffic fatalities decreased by 5 to 18 percent.

In the U.S., alcohol-related accidents cause 10,000 deaths and 170,000 injuries on a yearly basis, according to NBC. The NTSB estimates that a lower legal limit in all 50 states could save 1,000 lives per year.


When impairment really begins

A study conducted earlier this year supports the assertion that drivers who are under the legal BAC limit may be too impaired. According to NBC, the study reviewed more than 570,000 fatal collisions, which took place over a 17-year period. Researchers concluded there was virtually no BAC level that could be considered safe to drive at.


Researchers found that drivers with minimal BAC levels of .01 percent were still 46 percent more likely to be exclusively, officially blamed in final accident reports. The risk of a driver being deemed responsible in a fatal car wreck only increased as BAC level did.


Unfortunately, reform could be a long way off. NBC reports that the last change in BAC level, from .10 percent to .08 percent, took more than 21 years to implement across the country. In the meantime, drivers who believe they are making safe decisions by observing the current legal limit may put others in needless danger.


Seeking help after accidents

If a driver causes an accident while his or her BAC is below the legal BAC limit, the driver may still be held accountable for any resulting injuries. Anyone who has been hurt in an alcohol-related accident should consider meeting with an attorney to discuss options for seeking compensation.


Keywords: drunk driving, accident, injury, wrongful death