Even though it’s common knowledge that drinking and driving is a deadly combination, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that, on average, nearly 40 people die daily in drunk driving crashes. This is a tragic statistic because drunk driving accidents are avoidable by making a straightforward choice: do not drink and drive. At Peterson & Associates, P.C. in Kansas City, our car accident attorneys believe that knowledge is power. So here’s what you need to know about the effects of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) on a driver's abilities.

The Impact of BAC Levels 

Blood alcohol concentration, also referred to as blood alcohol content (BAC), is the percent of alcohol in an individual’s bloodstream. For example, a BAC of .10 percent means that a person’s blood supply contains one part of alcohol for every 1,000 parts of blood. However, someone’s height, body mass, and how their system metabolizes alcohol also have an impact on abilities and behaviors.

What Does Alcohol Do to The Body?

Consuming alcohol, even just a little bit, impacts the body. Here are some of the common effects a person may feel at each (BAC) level:

  • BAC .02: some loss of judgment, mood changes, feeling relaxed
  • BAC .05: loss of muscle control, changes in behavior, less alert, feeling uninhibited
  • BAC .08: Poor muscle coordination, impaired memory, judgment difficulties, lack of self-control (In most states, except Utah at .05, the legal BAC limit is .08)
  • BAC .10: Increased lack of muscle control, slurred speech, poor coordination, slow reaction time.
  • BAC .15: Loss of balance, vomiting, and even more lack of muscle control.

How Does Alcohol Consumption Affect Driving Ability?

Any BAC level can diminish your ability to operate a vehicle and cause a drunk driving car accident. Even the slightest amount of alcohol in your system can have the following effects while behind the wheel:

  • A decline in visual function
  • Reduced capability to see moving objects
  • Limited responsiveness to emergency driving situations
  • Lack of speed control
  • Impaired perception
  • Unable to stay in marked lanes
  • Unable to brake appropriately
  • Absence of auditory information processing
  • Overall reduced control of the vehicle

If law enforcement suspects a motorist is driving while impaired, they’ll first use a breathalyzer to test for alcohol on the driver’s breath. They might also conduct a series of field sobriety tests, such as asking the driver to follow a moving object with their eyes, perform heel-to-toe walk-and-turn movements, and stand on one leg to determine intoxication. Before charging someone with a DWI, police might also require the individual to get a blood test, which can detect BAC levels for the past 12 hours. 

In the event of an accident, especially one that results in injuries, all of this information is recorded in the arresting officer’s police report and later used as evidence for personal injury claims and in court proceedings.

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