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No safe limit for drinking while driving, UCSD study finds

There is no safe limit for drinking alcohol and driving, say UC San Diego researchers in a new study.
“Buzzed” drivers even with a 0.01 percent blood alcohol concentration are significantly more likely to be involved in accidents that cause injuries than totally sober drivers, according to the study, published Monday in the journal Addiction.
The findings suggest the legal blood-alcohol limit should be lowered from 0.08 percent in the United States to nearer the levels in Sweden and Japan, 0.02 and 0.03, write the authors, David P. Phillips and Kimberly M. Brewer, in UCSD’s Department of Sociology.
With a blood alcohol level of 0.01 percent, there are 4.33 serious injuries for each nonserious injury in a car crash, the study says, using information from a federal accident database.
For drivers with no detectable blood alcohol, the ratio is 3.17 serious injuries per each nonserious injury.
In other words, vehicular accidents are 36.6 percent more likely to be severe with a blood-alcohol reading of 0.01 percent than with an entirely sober driver.
That difference is “highly statistically significant,” Phillips and Brewer wrote, with a probability of the results happening by chance of less than 1 in 1 million.
Chris Parent, a California Highway Patrol officer with the Oceanside office, said that in his experience, a 0.01 blood-alcohol level is not a significant contributing factor to accidents.
“Typically, 0.05 percent is what the Highway Patrol uses to gauge whether or not alcohol was a factor in a collision,” Parent said.
Individuals handle alcohol differently, Parent said, so some people could become impaired with a lower blood alcohol concentration than others.
“A very small, petite girl who’s never had alcohol before could be affected at a lower dose than somebody who drinks regularly,” Parent said.
The study authors used data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, which records all persons in the U.S. involved in fatal vehicle accidents.
The data span from 1994 to 2008, covering all counties, every day of the week, and includes measurements on blood-alcohol levels in 0.01 increments.
“… (O)ur principal finding generally holds true throughout the U.S., throughout the study period, and for both single- and multiple-vehicle crashes,” the article states.
The relationship remains even when results are adjusted for driver inattention and fatigue, two other causes of accidents.
A third adjustment, for higher accident severity at certain times of day, week and month, also confirmed the relationship between more serious accidents and even being minimally “buzzed,” the study said.
The same is true when results were adjusted for the age of the vehicle.
The study was funded by the Marian E. Smith Foundation.
Read more: http://www.nctimes.com/business/article_2ea1a435-5e8c-5dd4-b31f-19be545826a4.html#ixzz1QFSczoHL
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