Researchers at UC San Diego have confirmed what we’ve been saying all along: even a small amount of alcohol is considered unsafe behind the wheel. In other words, that “harmless” buzz will greatly increase your chance of a car accident or serious injury, and even death.

So how much is too much? The federal law states that driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 percent or more is in violation of federal law. But, as we unfortunately know, many accident including fatal ones, occur with blood alcohol levels that are much less – even levels of .01 have shown to increase one’s risk of a car accident, according to the study.

Incredibly, a blood alcohol level of .01 is less than half a beer for most adults.

Details of the study

Researchers have found statistics to support their consensus that even a trace of alcohol is too much while behind the wheel. Incredibly, even with a blood alcohol level of .01, “there are 4.33 serious injuries for every non-serious injury versus 3.17 for sober drivers.” In other words, the risk for car accidents increases when alcohol is involved.

“Accidents are 36.6 percent more severe even when alcohol was barely detectable in a driver’s blood… Compared with sober drivers, buzzed drivers are more likely to speed, more likely to be improperly seat-belted and more likely to drive the striking vehicle, all of which are associated with greater severity.” Phillips said.

Study illuminates a need for revising U.S. federal law

Any reasonable lawmaker can evaluate these findings and immediately conclude that our federal legal limits for blood alcohol levels while driving may simply be too high. If even a .01 blood alcohol level has the potential to produce dangerous results on the road, we can then conclude how risky it may be to drive “below the legal limit” of a whopping .08 blood alcohol level.

According to a report by ABC News, the United States falters in comparison to other countries for tolerance of alcohol behind the wheel. Brazil and Russia, for example, have a zero tolerance policy, meaning absolutely no blood alcohol level is permitted while driving. Even a .01 blood alcohol level would be considered a violation of the law in those countries. And, other countries like Sweden, China, and Puerto Rico have established the limit at .02 blood alcohol limit. As a Western country, only the United States is so lenient in their policy-making surrounding alcohol use behind the wheel.

Other prominent findings of the study include:

  • The more alcohol found in the system, the higher the speed of the vehicle
  • Accident severity is up on the weekends, due largely in part to alcohol
  • The presence of alcohol increases one’s chance of not buckling up
  • Those who drive under the influence are more likely to drive the striking vehicle in a car accident

Prevent accidents: use community resources as an asset against drunk driving

San Diego has several community resources you can use to do your part to prevent DUI-related car accidents. Consider the following tools to prevent another needless car accident injury or death.

Prepay your taxi ride

For $30, you can call 511 for a taxi ride home. Buy your prepaid cards at

Join a safe ride program

An off-duty officer will pick you up and drop you off with no questions asked. There are many organizations that offer a safe ride program – a quick web search will produce many options available in your city.

Call 911 if you spot a drunk driver

Calling the police if you see a drunk driver can save your life, and the life of others. If you suspect intoxication of another driver, pull over and call 911 to report the offender immediately.

About the Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC.

Michael Pines, founder, is an advocate against drunk driving and has helped those injured in DUI-related car accidents seek fair recovery. For a free legal evaluation with absolutely no out-of-pocket costs, call 1-858-551-2090. An experienced San Diego personal injury attorney at Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC. will be in touch to discuss your claim immediately. You may also use our online form to submit your case online.