The holiday season is also drunk driving season in Texas. Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas parties and football tailgating commonly inspire overindulgence. However, even if you drink responsibly, you may still be at increased risk of impaired driving. The law sets .08 percent blood alcohol content (BAC) as the per se limit of impairment, but you are in fact affected by alcohol at a much lower level.
Mark R. Rosekind is the nominee for the top National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (N.H.T.S.A.) position. He is a specialist in the effects that fatigue, circadian rhythms, drugs and alcohol have on human performance. In his current role at the National Transportation Safety Board (N.T.S.B.), Mr. Rosekind advocated for the reduction in the per se impairment limit to .05 percent BAC. He bases his recommendation on studies that demonstrate a sharply increased auto accident risk when a driver has a BAC below the current .08 legal limit. His proposal was met with strong opposition and has not been passed, but let’s consider the facts that support a .05 BAC limit.
Small Amount of Alcohol Affects Drivers
Many people judge
how much is safe to drink by the legal standards. Therefore, drivers
tend to believe they are OK as long as they remain below .08 percent
BAC. In reality, after only one drink, you are a danger on the road.
A study released by the N.T.S.B. shows that drivers’ experience:
- Divided attention at .01 percent
- Drowsiness at .02 percent
- Decreased vigilance at .04 percent
- Altered perceptions and visual functions at .05 percent
- Tracking difficulties at .06 percent
- Impaired cognitive tasks, psychomotor skills and choice reaction time at .07 percent
- Compromised simple reaction time and critical flicker fusion at .10 percent
Reducing the BAC Legal Limit
Crash risks remain relatively flat from 0 BAC to .03 BAC. From .03 to .05 BAC, the risks of an auto accident increase slightly. Above .05
BAC, the risks increase at a much sharper angle.
When states — including Texas — dropped the per se
impairment level from .10 percent to .08 BAC, crashes, fatalities and
injuries decreased by five to 16 percent. This step led to the
prevention of an estimated 360 deaths per year. The N.T.S.B. study
concluded that further reducing the per se impairment level to .05 percent would prevent around 538 more deaths each year.
A surprising number of countries in South American, Central American,
Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa — basically everywhere but North
America — set the legal limit at .05 BAC. It’s time for the
United States to get with the program.
Berenson Law represents numerous victims of drunk driving accidents
in Dallas-Fort Worth. I hope that one day these accidents do not happen. If you were injured by a drunk driver, I can help you. Call my
office at 817-885-8000 or toll-free at 1-888-801-8585.