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Many Columbus residents wouldn’t bat an eyelash at the notion that “some alcohol” (even if it is a very, very small amount) is worse than “no alcohol” in the context of driving. Even if the driver in question is below the legal limit, he or she probably isn’t operating the vehicle to the best of their abilities. We’re talking about small margins here — or at least that is the way it would seem.

Actually, a new report shows just how dangerous it is to drive when you are “buzzed” but not legally drunk. Researchers looked at a massive number of fatal car accidents from 1994 to 2011 (more than 570,000 such crashes, in fact) and they made a startling discovery.

Researchers say that a driver with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.01 (well below the legal limit of 0.08) is 46 percent more likely to be solely at fault for a crash than their sober counterparts. A BAC of 0.01 may seem insignificant (for an adult male, it would only take six ounces of beer to achieve such a level of intoxication) but the research clearly shows that even that small amount of alcohol can induce a terrible crash.

So does that mean it is time to reduce the legal limit for drunk driving? According to the research 9and other studies), there is nothing magical about the 0.08 number. In fact, 0.05 seems to be a more serious benchmark as, from that point upward, a person’s driving skills are more greatly affected.

Source: Reuters, “Buzzed drivers under legal limit still risk car accidents,” Jan. 22, 2014