Why Buzzed Driving is Considered Drunk Driving


Americans use the term “buzzed” to indicate that they’ve had a few drinks but are not drunk. In several, buzzed driving means your blood-alcohol content (BAC) is between 0.01% and 0.07% or under the legal limit. However, this state of inebriation can make you just as much of a danger on the road. Here’s why buzzed driving is considered drunk driving. 

The Case of 0.08%

Every state across the United States currently considers a 0.08% BAC to be drunk driving. It wasn’t always that way, though. New Jersey was the first place where any drunk driving law was implemented, but early laws did not rely on alcohol content to decide on a driver’s impairment. Cops made the decision case by case using their own judgement. Experts at Patrick McLain suggest that multiple DUI cases on a person can increase jail terms and fines and may also require them to perform community services.  

In 1941, states began adopting 0.15% as the legal limit. From the 1970s to the 1990s, groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Students Against Destructive Decisions worked to change the legal limit. Zero tolerance laws were enacted for those under 21 while the legal limit was brought down to 0.08%

Since 2013, the National Transportation Safety Board has been arguing to lower the BAC limit to 0.05%. Drunk driving continues to account for one-third of all deaths on the road and countless car accidents causing serious personal injuries. Raising the question, is buzzed driving actually drunk driving? 

Buzzed and Drunk Driving

Studies continue to point to the fact that buzzed driving constitutes a large portion of fatal accidents on the road. These studies also show that even a 0.01% BAC can impact your ability to operate a vehicle, making you 46% more likely to be at fault in an accident. 

The National Transportation Safety Board agrees with these studies, continuing to push for the 0.05% limit. At 0.05%, some drivers have issues with depth perception. At 0.07%, cognitive abilities are impaired in all drivers. They argue that lowering the legal limit just by two-tenths of a percent could save 1,000 lives each year, based on the board’s research. 

Critics continue to argue that buzzed driving is not as big of a problem as high-BAC accidents or distracted driving, though. Others suggest that further lowering the legal limit would impact their freedoms and ability to enjoy bars or have drinks at a restaurant. 

Is Buzzed Driving Drunk Driving?

For now, no. The distinction is made because of the legal limit. However, it’s clear that buzzed driving contributes to an astonishing number of fatal accidents in the United Sates. Drinking and driving, regardless of BAC, remains a major issue in this country. 

If you’ve been hit by a drunk driver, then you know just how tragic the experience can be. From recovery to dealing with attorneys and insurance providers, it’s a nightmare. You can help lower the legal limit by writing to your representatives in Congress and urging them to keep the roads safer. All it takes is 0.01% for impairment to take place, putting you and others on the road in the danger. 

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