There are no excuses when it comes to drunk driving. Every adult knows that driving while impaired puts not only that driver at risk, but innocent motorists, pedestrians and cyclists in danger of being injured in a motor vehicle crash as well.

New research shows that it might be time for New Jersey and New York legislators to redefine the legal definition of drunk driving. A study recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows that drivers with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of below the legal limit (.08 percent) account for 15 percent of all fatal motor vehicle wrecks involving alcohol.

Of those fatalities, slightly more than half were someone other than the impaired driver and, researchers said, these crashes were more likely to include youth deaths than wrecks involving drivers above the legal BAC threshold.

So even though these drivers below the threshold can legally drive without being cited for DUI, they’re impaired enough to cause violent collisions that take someone’s life.

Most research on drunk driving focuses on drivers who are above the legal .08 BAC limit, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says on its website that “buzzed driving more than just you.” The federal agency says about 1 in 6 children involved in drunk driving accidents die and that in 54 percent of those cases, it was the child’s parent who was intoxicated.

The NHTSA says declines in mental and physical abilities are observable as BAC rises:

  • .02 percent: there’s a decline in vision and in a driver’s ability to perform two tasks at once
  • .05 percent: a decline in coordination becomes evident, as well as a diminished ability to track moving object and a delayed response to emergencies
  • .08 percent: drivers have short-term memory losses, diminished concentration, difficulties processing information

A driver’s ability to keep the vehicle in the lane and to brake appropriately both erode as the BAC rises above the legal threshold, as does their ability to process visual and aural information and make good assessments and judgments.

If you or a loved one has been harmed by a driver impaired by alcohol or drugs, contact an Englewood law firm experienced in personal injury litigation.