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A Driver Can Still Be Intoxicated and Under .08 BAC

Goldstein Heslop Steele Clapper Oswalt & Smith Dec. 10, 2021

Like the vast majority of its sister states, Pennsylvania uses .08 blood alcohol content, or BAC, as its legal limit for the purpose of deciding whether a driver can face criminal drunk driving charges.

In other words, if a police officer can validly establish that a driver had .08 or more BAC, then it is relatively easy to prosecute criminal charges against that driver, that is, as opposed to a driver who blew under .08 BAC.

However, especially in the world of civil liability, it is important not to confuse the .08 legal limit with a magic number which separates a drunk driver from a sober driver. In a personal injury case alleging negligence, the question is not whether the driver responsible for a car accident blew over .08 after the wreck but whether the driver’s careless use of alcohol contributed to the accident.

In this respect, it is important to remember that even the equivalent of a couple of drinks can, in the right circumstances, lead to an accident.

According to one analysis which was recently reported in the mainstream media, at .05 BAC, a person will have some marked problems with motor coordination, including the coordination required to steer a wheel. She may also not be able to follow moving objects with her eyes and may not be able to react quickly to a change in the road conditions.

In short, a driver at .05 BAC can be just as dangerous to those around him as a legally drunk driver.

What this means for accident victims is that they should not give up hope if they suspect a driver’s use of alcohol is responsible for their injuries, even if the driver blew under .08. Instead, they should speak with an experienced accident attorney in order to go over their options.