How dangerous is drunk driving? The NHTSA provides guidance.


Even one drink can impair a driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.

The dangers of drunk driving are highlighted in television programs, educational efforts and roadside signs. Although this information is widely available, many still question the dangers of a few drinks before driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) addressed these concerns in a recent publication. The piece broke down exactly how various levels of intoxication impacts a person’s driving ability. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • 1 drink. A man averaging 180 lbs would generally have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.02 percent after one drink. A 160 lbs woman would have a BAC of 0.03 after a single drink. These are estimations. The exact BACs will vary depending on a number of circumstances, including metabolic rate and whether or not the individual has recently eaten. The NHTSA notes that a BAC of 0.02 generally results in a slight loss of judgment and a decline in visual functioning. At this level, the ability to perform two tasks at once also declines. In some cases, even a low level BAC can result in drunk driving charges.
  • 2 drinks. The same man would have a BAC of about 0.04 after two drinks, while the woman noted above would be at 0.06. At 0.05, the NHTSA notes that a driver has impaired judgment and lowered alertness. This can translate to a difficulty steering and a reduced response in the event of an emergency.
  • 3 drinks. The man in this scenario would likely have a BAC of 0.06, the woman, 0.09. It is illegal to operate a vehicle with a BAC at or above 0.08. At 0.08 a driver has poor muscle coordination, difficulty concentrating and impaired perception.
  • 4 drinks. This would result in a BAC of 0.08 for the man and 0.10 for the woman. Both are over the legal limit. At 0.10 percent, the driver has clear deterioration of reaction time. Speech is generally slurred and drivers often have difficulties keeping their vehicle within their traffic lane.

It is important to note that these averages are approximations. There is not an exact answer to how alcohol will impact each individual. The impact will vary for every person. However, this information does provide some guidance into how great of an impact even a small amount of alcohol can have on an individual’s ability to drive.

What if I am injured in a drunk driving accident?

If you were the victim of a drunk driving accident, legal remedies are likely available. The driver can be held accountable not only criminally for breaking the law, but also civilly. A civil suit can result in monetary compensation to help cover the costs that result from the accident.

As a result, anyone injured in this type of crash is wise to seek legal counsel. An experienced attorney can review the details of your accident and build a case tailored to your injuries, better ensuring your interests are protected.