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A driver doesn't have to be legally drunk to be dangerous

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 10,497 people across the country died in crashes involving a driver impaired by alcohol in 2016. The odds are good that at least some of those victims died here on Pennsylvania roads.

The majority of those deaths involved a driver with a blood alcohol concentration at or above .08. You might be surprised to know that 2,017 of those deaths involved a driver with a BAC between .01 and .07. That's because BAC does not have to reach the legal limit for intoxication in order to make driving unsafe.

What effects occur at different BAC levels?

As you ingest alcohol, it moves through your stomach and small intestine into your bloodstream. Thereafter, your liver must metabolize it, which takes time. If you continue to drink, your liver can't keep up, and you begin to feel the effects of alcohol. Below are the typical effects alcohol has on your ability to drive as your BAC rises:

  • At .02, your ability to track moving objects begins to decline. Your attention becomes divided, which makes it more difficult to multitask.
  • At .05, your judgment becomes impaired. As your ability to track moving objects continues to decline, so do your coordination, your ability to steer properly and your ability to quickly and efficiently respond to emergencies.
  • At .08, the above abilities continue to diminish. In addition, your coordination, speed control and short-term memory all suffer. You have trouble processing information such as a traffic signal turning red or scanning the roadway for obstacles and hazards.

Once your BAC goes above .08, staying in your lane, paying attention to the road and controlling your vehicle become progressively worse.

What this means for you

Frankly, you may not know that you are sharing the road with a drunk driver until it's too late. More than likely, every time you drive, especially at night, you encounter a vehicle driven by someone with some level of alcohol in his or her system. You may be lucky enough to avoid a violent encounter with these drivers, but perhaps one of your loved ones was not so fortunate.

You may have lost a loved one in an alcohol-related collision. Even if the other driver's BAC did not exceed the legal limit of .08 here in Pennsylvania, that does not necessarily release that person from legal responsibility for the death of your loved one. Because alcohol effects the ability to drive safely even at low levels, any recordable BAC made that driver dangerous.

What you can do about it

Losing a loved one costs much more than money, but that is one thing that a wrongful death claim may be able to restore to you. Last medical bills, funeral and burial costs, and the loss of a loved one's income, among other things, all cause you to suffer financial losses due to the negligent actions of another person.

You may be able to pursue compensation for those losses, and perhaps receive a sense of justice regarding your loss at the same time. Navigating the legal system can be complex and frustrating, and fortunately, you do not have to go through it alone.

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