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Is Buzzed Driving Really Drunk Driving?

The familiar, “I’m OK to drive,” after someone has been drinking, is a testament to his or her alcohol-driven overconfidence – not actual ability. The number of drinks does not matter. Even with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level below Texas’ legal limit of 0.08%, a driver can be guilty of driving under the influence. Any amount of alcohol can impair driving ability. In Texas and around the world, buzzed driving is drunk driving.

Alcohol’s Effects on Driving

A lot of people mistakenly believe they know their limits. They have a set number of drinks they can have before they’re “too drunk” to drive. They think that simply having a buzz means they’re still good to get behind the wheel. Driving with any amount of alcohol in the bloodstream is dangerous. The BAC chart from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission helps illustrate this fact. The chart shows that at just one drink, an individual of 100 pounds is impaired. At two drinks, this person is legally intoxicated. Here’s how alcohol can affect driving:

  • Judgment. Alcohol interferes with the ability to think clearly and make good decisions. It can impair judgment and make it difficult to reason and plan ahead.
  • Concentration. It can be difficult to concentrate on the road or the task of driving, even when “just buzzed.” This can lead to driver distraction and related accidents.
  • Coordination. Safely operating a vehicle takes a certain degree of coordination and reflexes. Drinking impairs motor skills and reaction time.
  • Vision. Alcohol can blur vision, reduce peripheral vision, and impair the ability to control eye movement. Buzzed drivers may not be able to see things clearly or judge depth or distance.
  • Awareness. Drivers under the influence may lack awareness of what’s happening around them. They may not be able to react to changing roadway situations in time to avoid a collision.

It’s easy to see how driving under the influence of alcohol is a bad idea, regardless of how sober, buzzed, or drunk the driver feels. Even a small amount of alcohol can impair judgment, slow reflexes, and increase the risk of an accident. If a buzzed driver gets involved in an accident, his or her BAC level may not matter. The presence of any amount of alcohol could lay blame on the impaired driver.

DUI and DWI Laws in Texas

Buzzed driving isn’t just drunk driving in terms of its danger level – it’s drunk driving in the eyes of the law. It is a misconception that a driver can only receive a DUI/DWI charge if he or she has a BAC level of 0.08% or higher. In Texas, police can arrest an intoxicated driver with a smaller BAC level if they believe the driver is impaired enough to affect their driving ability. This could be any amount of alcohol. Keep in mind that commercial drivers are legally intoxicated at 0.04% BAC, and drivers younger than 21 at any detectable amount.

If a police officer believes you’ve consumed enough alcohol to make you a danger on the roadway, you could receive a criminal DUI or DWI charge – even if you’re only “buzzed.” The officer will need other evidence besides a BAC test to prove this, such as field sobriety tests or footage of you and your vehicle during the traffic stop. A DUI/DWI conviction can result in thousands of dollars in costs, license suspension, mandatory alcohol education, and other penalties. Driving buzzed comes with the same risks as driving drunk. If you plan on drinking, don’t plan on driving.

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