"Drinking and Driving" vs. "Drunk Driving"

By Ben Langlotz
Jan 11, 1996

[In Response to the argument that you can be a little drunk but have a great lost of reaction speed and ability. And that in a way, it might just be as bad as being really drunk because you might have a confidence level of partially drunk. "Hell, I'm not not smashed at all, so no prob. In fact, I'm pretty damned relaxed... think I'll light up a smoke, though in a tape..."]

An interesting hypotheses, but it has been repeatedly disproven by medical and law enforcement studies.

Basically, you are about as impaired as one might think: A drink or two slows you down a bit, and a reasonable person knows it and is capable of driving cautiously. "Too many drinks" makes you cross eyed and nearly incapable of doing anything requiring judgment and motor skills.

The studies show that the increase in risk of an accident increases only gradually up to 0.10% BAC, at which point it is about double the sober risk. Above that level, the risk curve skyrockets until the risk is many, many times as great in the 0.20% BAC range. That is why our laws set limits in the 0.10 range.

A person who has consumed a number of drinks, but remains below the limit, is at no greater risk than the many other drivers who are statistically at mildly enhanced risk of an accident for various legally permitted reasons (e.g. youth, inexperience, elderly, tired, poverty, angry, distracted, clueless, inattentive.)

Some forces are trying to lower BAC limits by demonizing the large proportion of the population that occasionally drinks in moderation, then drives home carefully. All this does is to give the few chronic abuses who do the real harm plenty of cover, as enforcement will be diverted to the minimally risky drivers (much in the manner that low speed limits keep the troopers busy ticketing you for going 70, while someone driving 90 has the chance to slow down when he sees the trooper busy with you.)

Ben Langlotz
National Motorists Association, Oregon Chapter Coordinator

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