Most alcohol-related traffic fatalities are caused by hard-core, high-BAC, and repeat drunk driving offenders.
The average BAC of a drunk driver involved in a fatal crash is .19—well over twice the legal limit of .08 and almost quadruple the proposed limit of .05. High-BAC offenders (drivers with BACs above .15) accounted for a vast majority of alcohol-related traffic fatalities in 2015 according to the most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Numerous studies have shown that a driver operating a vehicle while using a hands-free cell phone is more dangerous than a driver with a blood alcohol concentration of .08. This is why only one percent of alcohol-involved traffic fatalities involve drivers with BACs between .05 and .08.
Distracted driving, especially texting while driving, is responsible for an ever-increasing proportion of traffic deaths. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has taken notice and launched extensive public awareness campaigns regarding the dangers of distracted driving.
Accidents caused by drivers with BACs of less than .08 would have likely occurred regardless of whether the driver had a BAC of .05 or .00.
While speeding, distracted driving, and driving while fatigued may be more dangerous in many ways than driving at .08 BAC, the action is still illegal; drunk driving has serious consequences. A first conviction for DWI can result in license suspension, community service, installation of an ignition interlock device, and even jail time.
While .08 percent is the legal national threshold, in some rare cases you could be arrested for drunk driving while driving under the legal limit. About half the states have presumptive intoxication limits of 0.04 and 0.05 and almost every state allows individuals with BACs below the legal limit to be convicted of drunk driving, although additional evidence is generally required to convict at that lower level.
Knowing your limit and how your body processes alcohol is crucial when consuming alcohol. Staying below a .08 BAC when driving will help keep you and others around you safe.