Is Buzzed Driving Considered Drunk Driving?

Summer is a great time for gatherings with friends, cookouts, and vacations. Adults who enjoy social drinking typically tend to drink more during the hot summer months, so it’s important to keep a few best practices in mind when it comes to alcohol consumption and driving. Unfortunately, many people falsely believe that a small amount of alcohol cannot interfere with driving ability, and often participate in buzzed or drunk driving. Although the legal limit for blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08%, the reality is that an even smaller concentration can contribute to an accident.

What Is Buzzed Driving?

When a person consumes a small amount of alcohol or other drug, he or she may experience a mild rush of euphoria as intoxication begins to manifest. This lighter form of drunkenness, often called a “buzz,” may not seem to interfere with motor functions and one’s ability to drive, but the reality is that buzzed driving is still dangerous. A good rule of thumb to follow is that if you think you’re just “probably” okay to drive, you aren’t okay to drive.

Alcohol causes several physical effects that interfere with driving ability, regardless of how much experience a person has behind the wheel. Alcohol impairs your judgment and can cause you to engage in high-risk behaviors that you would otherwise avoid. Alcohol consumption can also interfere with sensory processing and make it more difficult to judge things like speed, time, and distance, which are crucial functions for any driver. Alcohol can also cause drowsiness, and in combination with summer heat this can be a recipe for falling asleep at the wheel, even with just a light buzz.

Although a driver won’t receive a DUI charge if his or her BAC is under .08%, many accidents occur due to drivers with BACs between .01% and .07%. While these incidents may not constitute DUI charges, they can still cause catastrophic damage, and a buzzed driver who causes an accident may not face legal penalties for DUI, but he or she will be liable for any resulting damages. To fight this trend, some lawmakers have suggested lowering the legal limit to .05% BAC.

Consequences of Buzzed Driving

You may feel as though you’re fine to drive after only a few beers at a friend’s cookout, but the reality is that many people experience changes in depth perception with less than .08% BAC. A slight buzz may not seem like a dangerous obstacle at first, but it can cause a driver to miss changing road conditions, a pedestrian suddenly stepping into a crosswalk, or another driver passing through a blind spot.

If you cause a car accident while buzzed driving and injure anyone, you should prepare to face legal action. A victim in a buzzed driving accident can still file a personal injury lawsuit against an at-fault driver and claim damages including medical expenses, property damage, lost income, and pain and suffering. If a jury discovers the at-fault driver had a buzz at the time, they may decide that punitive damages are to discourage similar behavior in the future, as the offense would not qualify for DUI charges.

It’s up to every individual to make good decisions concerning alcohol consumption this summer. Social drinking is more common during the summer, but don’t assume that a buzz isn’t cause for concern behind the wheel. While you may feel confident enough to drive home safely, you could cause a serious accident and face liability for the damages. If you have questions about buzzed driving, or you or a loved one sustained injuries due to another driver’s buzzed driving, an experienced personal injury attorney can be a fantastic source of information concerning your legal options.