Traffic accidents are 36 percent more likely to involve deaths or severe injuries when even a small amount of alcohol is present in a driver's system, according to a UC San Diego study released Monday.
Researchers David Phillips and Kimberly Brewer looked at nearly 1.5 million fatal traffic accidents in the United States between 1994 and 2008 to arrive at the figure.
The legal limit for blood-alcohol content in California is 0.08 percent. However, in collisions in which a driver has just a 0.01 BAC, the ratio of people who suffer serious injuries to those who suffered less serious wounds was 4.33 to one, the researchers found. For sober drivers, the ratio was 3.17
"Compared with sober drivers, buzzed drivers are more likely to speed, more likely to be improperly seat-belted and more likely to drive the striking vehicle, all of which are associated with greater severity,'' Phillips said.
The severity of injuries increased with the blood-alcohol level, according to the authors, who said the findings held true even when factors such as fatigue and time of day were accounted for.
Phillips said he hope the results will convince legislators to lower the allowable blood-alcohol limit.
"Doing so is very likely to reduce incapacitating injuries and to save lives,'' Phillips said.
The research was published in the journal