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Drunk driving is an offense that is taken seriously under Mississippi law; Mothers Against Drunk Driving has even given the state a five-star rating for its legal efforts to deter drunk drivers. Still, drunk driving contributes significantly to car accidents and fatalities in the state, with accidents involving alcohol representing 31 percent of all 2012 traffic fatalities. Unfortunately, research suggests that the state’s current blood-alcohol content limit leaves north Mississippi drivers in danger.

Legal levels of intoxication still dangerous

Last year, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that all states lower the legal BAC limit from .08 percent to .05 percent, according to the New York Times. The recommendation was made because intoxicated driving still causes roughly 10,000 fatalities annually. This figure represents an improvement over past years, but it has held steady in recent years, according to CNN.

The NTSB cited several statistics to support the proposed lower limit, including:

  • People with a BAC of .05 percent are 39 percent more likely to play a role in an accident than sober drivers.
  • Studies estimate that a legal limit of .05 percent could save 500 to 800 lives on a yearly basis.
  • More than 100 other countries already observe a limit of .05 percent.

A recent study supports the NTSB’s recommendation. At the University of California, San Diego, researchers reviewed more than 570,000 fatal collisions that occurred over a 7-year period. The study concluded that virtually no blood-alcohol content allows for safe driving. Compared to sober drivers, drivers with a BAC of just .01 percent were 46 percent more likely to be deemed completely responsible for fatal accidents during official accident investigations.

Researchers found that, from minimal levels of intoxication up to the legal limit, the likelihood of an intoxicated driver being blamed for the accident increased steadily. Alarmingly, the study also found that drivers who were intoxicated but below the legal limit were typically not punished more harshly than people who were completely sober.

This may reflect widespread biases or misperceptions about driving while below the legal limit. Many drivers may think the legal limit represents a meaningful threshold at which driving safely becomes impossible. Some drivers who carefully avoid driving while legally intoxicated may not think twice about driving with low levels of alcohol in their systems. Unfortunately, this can still be a decision with deadly consequences.

Seeking help after alcohol-related accidents

Sadly, statistics show that many Mississippi drivers will likely be affected by accidents involving alcohol this year. Even if an intoxicated driver is not over the legal limit, he or she may still be considered liable for the accident if personal impairment or poor decisions contributed to the accident. Anyone who has been hurt in an intoxicated driving accident should speak with an attorney about pursuing compensation.