Even driving mildly buzzed -- with a blood alcohol content (BAC) as low as 0.01 percent -- raises the risk of causing a fatal car accident, according to a new study.
Researchers from the University of California, San Diego found that having a BAC of 0.01 percent recent was associated with a 46 percent higher risk of being the official, sole cause of a car accident, compared with the sober driver also involved in the collision.
"Our data support both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's campaign that 'Buzzed driving is drunk driving' and the recommendation made by the National Transportation Safety Board, to reduce the legal limit to BAC 0.05 percent," study researcher David Phillips, a sociologist at UC San Diego, said in a statement. "In fact, our data provide support for yet greater reductions in the legal BAC."
The study, published in the journal Injury Prevention, is based on data from the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System. The researchers analyzed 570,731 fatal collisions that were included in this database and that occurred between 1994 and 2011. The database included information on BAC levels associated with the car crashes, in increments of 0.01 percent.
Researchers found that the level of blame for being the cause of a car accident increased starting from a BAC of 0.01 percent, all the way up to 0.24 percent. (Blame was determined based on 50 different factors, such as driving on the wrong side of the road.)
"There appears to be no safe combination of drinking and driving -- even minimally 'buzzed' drivers pose increased risk to themselves and to others," the researchers wrote in the study. "Concerns about drunk driving should also be extended to 'buzzed' driving."