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Any alcohol at all increases crash risk, study shows

"Buzzed driving is drunk driving," according to a slogan touted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and recent research suggests this may indeed be the case.

Drivers with any amount of alcohol in their systems are significantly more likely to be found at fault for causing fatal car accidents, according to a study released in January 2014 by the University of California San Diego. The study, which was published in the journal Injury Prevention, focused on "buzzed" and "minimally buzzed" drivers with blood alcohol content (BAC) levels between 0.01 and 0.07 percent.

In Florida, and throughout the U.S., drivers are considered legally intoxicated when their BAC levels reach 0.08 or above. According to the UCSD study, however, alcohol consumption in any amount - even at levels well below the legal drunk driving threshold - substantially increases the likelihood that a driver will cause an accident.

Even half a beer can be too much

For the study, researchers analyzed data from 570,731 fatal car accidents that occurred between 1994 and 2011. By examining the drivers' BAC levels as well as clear indicators of fault, such as driving in the wrong lane or running a red light, they determined that drivers with BAC levels of 0.01 are 46 percent more likely than sober drivers to be solely responsible for causing a crash.

According to a Reuters report on the study, an adult male could reach the 0.01 BAC level by drinking just half of a 12-ounce beer; a female driver would likely reach that level even sooner. The researchers also determined that the likelihood of being at fault for a crash continued to rise as BAC levels increased. In other words, the study showed "no sudden transition from blameless to blamed" at the 0.08 BAC level, according to an NBC report. Instead, blameworthiness increased steadily between BAC levels of 0.01 to 0.24.

Florida car accident liability

In Florida, the law provides that drivers who cause accidents can be held liable for the harm they cause to others, regardless of whether they are charged with drunk driving or any other crime. People who are injured in Florida traffic accidents can often receive monetary compensation for their medical expenses, lost income and other damages. Likewise, when a Florida driver is killed in a crash, his or her family may also be able to receive financial compensation for the losses associated with the crash by pursuing a wrongful death claim.

Contact a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer to learn more about the legal options that may be available if you or a loved one has been hurt in a Florida traffic accident.