The relationship between serious injury and blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in fatal motor vehicle accidents: BAC = 0.01% is associated with significantly more dangerous accidents than BAC = 0.00%
Article first published online: 20 JUN 2011
© 2011 Society for the Study of Addiction. No claim to original US government works
Volume 106, Issue 9, pages 1614–1622, September 2011
How to Cite
Phillips, D. P. and Brewer, K. M. (2011), The relationship between serious injury and blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in fatal motor vehicle accidents: BAC = 0.01% is associated with significantly more dangerous accidents than BAC = 0.00%. Addiction, 106: 1614–1622. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2011.03472.x
- Issue published online: 5 AUG 2011
- Article first published online: 20 JUN 2011
- Submitted 1 September 2010; initial review completed 14 December 2010; final version accepted 8 April 2011
- automotive accidents;
- blood alcohol concentration (BAC);
- buzzed driving;
- drunk driving;
- United States
Aim To analyze the severity of automotive injuries associated with blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in increments of 0.01%.
Design/setting Epidemiological study using the Fatality Analysis Reporting System.
Participants All people in US fatal automotive accidents, 1994–2008 (n = 1 495 667).
Measurements The ratio of serious: non-serious injuries for drivers, by BAC.
Findings Accident severity increases significantly even when the driver is merely ‘buzzed’, a finding that persists after standardization for various confounding factors. Three mechanisms mediate between buzzed driving and high accident severity: compared to sober drivers, buzzed drivers are significantly more likely to speed, to be improperly seatbelted and to drive the striking vehicle. In addition, there is a strong ‘dose–response’ relationship for all three factors in relation to accident severity (e.g. the greater the BAC, the greater the average speed of the driver and the greater the severity of the accident).
Conclusions The severity of life-threatening motor vehicle accidents increases significantly at blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) far lower than the current US limit of 0.08%. Lowering the legal limit could save lives, prevent serious injuries and reduce financial and social costs associated with motor vehicle accidents.