A new study released this week by researchers found that there is no safe limit for drinking alcohol and getting behind the wheel. The study, published Monday in the journal Addiction, analyzes data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). The study reviewed all fatal accidents in all U.S. counties from 1994 to 2008, just shy of 1.5 million crashes covering a 15-year time period. Of those accidents, alcohol was the leading factor in 34% of reported crashes.
The study by UCSD researchers found that accidents involving a driver with a BAC of just 0.01 percent resulted in 4.33 severe injuries for every minor injury, compared to crashes involving sober drivers, there were an average 3.17 severe injuries for every minor injury.
The study is significant because it suggests that there is no such thing as a safe BAC. Even a single drink is associated with a higher risk of being involved in an accident resulting in injury or death. The more a driver drinks, the higher likelihood of being involved in a crash, and the more severe that accident is likely to be.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has long held the stance that the safest choice is not to drink and drive. The more alcohol you consume, the greater the effect on your ability to operate a vehicle. Impairment levels will vary depending on the length of time over which alcohol is consumed, your gender, your weight, and how much food you have consumed.
In the past 5 years, 5,700 people have died in drunk driving accidents in California. This study should not be a surprise. DUI accidents are avoidable, preventable tragedies. Although numbers are lower than other cities, over the years La Jolla has experienced its share of catastrophic and fatal alcohol and drug related collisions. Some of the more recent accidents include:
- Three teenagers suffered major injuries on August 15, 2010, when Ronald Troyer, 67, high on marijuana, drove his car onto a Bird Rock sidewalk and into Cass Street Café. On April 6, 2011, Troyer was convicted of driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, hit-and-run and a misdemeanor charge of driving on a suspended license. Last month, Troyer was sentenced to nearly 17 years in state prison.
- Jared Franklin Purton, 33, of Pacific Beach, was killed in a drunk driving accident on North Torrey Pines Road on December 13, 2009. The drunk driver, Michael Patrick Landri, 31, of Carmel Valley pleased guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. On July 9, 2010, Landri was sentenced to six years in prison.
- Nancy Galeana-Ramirez, 27, was killed in an alcohol-related accident at La Jolla Village Drive and Genesee Avenue on July 13, 2007. John Michael Sedej, 47, of Poway, was convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated on October 29, 2009. On January 7, 2010, Sedej was sentenced to six years in state prison.
This summer, make responsible choices that don’t endanger your friends and your neighbors. Take the buzzed driving pledge and commit to not drinking and driving. To learn more about alcohol related accidents and their impact on our community, visit madd.org or read the CDC impaired driving fact sheet.
If you or a family member has been involved in an alcohol related accident and you would like to know your rights to hold the driver accountable, contact a drunk driving accident victim attorney.