The Science of Drunk Driving  

blurry vission while driving
Posted: April 26, 2023

Alcohol slows the central nervous system and can impair judgment, coordination, sight, reaction time, and concentration.  


According to the Centers for Disease Control, motor-vehicle crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver kill over 30 people every day. Over 3,200 people were killed in such crashes in New York state between 2009 and 2018. 


New York has a range of penalties for those who violate laws regarding alcohol-impaired driving. To determine if a driver is drunk according to the law, a police officer can conduct a blood alcohol content (BAC) test with a breathalyzer or blood test 


Broadly speaking, under New York state law, drivers whose BAC exceeds .05 percent may be impaired, and drivers whose BAC is .08 percent or greater are deemed intoxicated. 


BAC is a percentage of alcohol per volume of blood. In the United States, a BAC of .08 percent, or .08, means someone has .08 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood. 


The law surrounding impaired/intoxicated driving in New York can get somewhat complicated. One concept that is not complicated is the fact that intoxicated or impaired driving on New York roads puts the driver and others at risk of serious injury or even death.  

How Prevalent is Impaired Driving? 

One in six nighttime drivers on the weekend tests positive for illicit drugs, according to a study by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) cited by New York State Police. 


There has been a concerted effort to lower the legal BAC limit effort from .08 percent to .05 percent. For example, New York Senate Bill S776, currently in the Senate Transportation Committee, would lower the blood alcohol concentration required for driving while intoxicated to .05 percent. 


The proposed change would “set an example for the rest of the country that it has the will to make practical policy changes to reduce alcohol-related crashes.” 


The NHTSA breaks down BAC levels as follows 

  • .02: some loss of judgment, relaxation, slight body warmth, altered mood  
  • .05: exaggerated behavior, loss of small-muscle control, impaired judgment, good mood, lowered alertness, the release of inhibition  
  • .08: poor muscle coordination, harder to detect danger; judgment, self-control, reasoning, and memory are all impaired 
  • .10: deterioration of reaction time and control, slurred speech, poor coordination, slowed thinking  
  • .15: much less muscle control, vomiting, significant loss of balance  

About 30 percent of all traffic fatalities in the United States involve impaired drivers with BACs of .08 or higher, according to the NHTSA.  

BAC Levels in Alcoholic Beverages  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one standard drink contains .6 ounces of pure alcohol. By this criterion, one drink is  

  • 12 ounces of beer, which typically contains 5 percent alcohol  
  • Eight ounces of malt liquor (7 percent alcohol) 
  • Five ounces of wine (12 percent alcohol) 
  • 1.5 ounces of hard liquor, or one shot (40 percent alcohol)  

But everyone is different; alcohol can affect people in vastly different ways.  


For some, one drink may be enough to reach the legal limit.  


Susceptibility to intoxication can vary depending on weight, gender, genetics, and other factors. 

Types of Impaired Driving  

Most people know that drunk driving can have devastating consequences and that you should never drink and get behind the wheel. But drug-impaired driving is also a concern on roadways. Drugs (such as marijuana and opioids) can impair a motorist’s judgment, resulting in dangerous motor-vehicle collisions.  


Drowsy driving is a significant problem across the United States, including New York. Alcohol and drowsiness affect the brain in about the same way. In fact, according to the CDC, going 17 hours without sleep is equal to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent, which makes you as likely to cause a car crash as someone who is legally drunk. 


Distracted driving can come in many forms. Any action that takes your attention away from the road can be considered a potential distraction. One such activity is texting. Another is talking on the phone. Other distractions are eating, using a GPS device, and talking to a passenger.


Someone with certain medical conditions can also be at risk of driving impaired. For example, several chronic illnesses can cause a sudden loss of consciousness. When that occurs, dangerous loss-of-control collisions can result.  


If you’ve been injured in an accident involving an impaired driver, our New York accident attorneys would be happy to review your case.  

Drunk Driving Accident Statistics in New York  

Thirty-two people die in drunk-driving motor-vehicle accidents every day in the United States. According to the NHTSA, 38,824 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2020, and 11,654 specifically died in alcohol-impaired driving traffic deaths 


The NHTSA reported that car crashes are one of the leading causes of teen death, and one in four fatal crashes involve an underage drinking driver. In 2020, 2,041 people died in in collisions where a driver had a BAC of .01 to .07. 


In New York State, more than 30 percent of fatal crashes are related to drinking and driving compiled the following alcohol-impaired driving data for 2019 for New York State:   

  • 307 total drunk-driving deaths   
  • 32.6 percent of drunk-driving deaths of total fatalities   
  • 21 drunk-driving deaths for drivers who were under 21   
  • 26.9 percent of under-21 drunk-driving deaths of total under-21 fatalities  

One challenge to preventing drinking and driving deaths is stopping repeat DUI offenders. In data on repeat offenders in New York, 28 percent had a BAC of .08 to .14, compared to the national average of 25.1 percent. Additionally, 72 percent had a BAC of more than .15, while the national average is 74.7 percent.  

Contact William Mattar Today 

At William Mattar, P.C. our attorneys handle personal injury claims for all types of motor-vehicle accidents, including those caused by impaired drivers. We are committed to helping injured motorists receive maximum compensation for pain and suffering.  


If you’ve been injured in an accident involving a drunk driver, contact William Mattar P.C. today. We’ll stand up for your rights and advocate for you to receive maximum compensation. Schedule a free initial consultation today, or call (844) 444-4444. We are available 24/7.  

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