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Is it ever safe to drink and drive?

You might think that, as long as you do not consume enough alcohol to be legally drunk, you can drive. However, even a couple of drinks can affect your ability to drive safely. You do not need to slur your words or stumble to make driving risky.

Indiana's legal limit is .08. Anything under that means I can drive, right?

Even blood alcohol content under .08 alters your abilities. Consider the following effects of alcohol below .08:

1. At .02, your visual acuity begins to decline. Your ability to multi-task, your mood and judgment begin to decline. Your body temperature and relaxation increase.

2. At .05, your inhibitions, alertness and judgment continue to decline, along with your coordination. Your response rate, small muscle control and ability to notice moving objects also decline. Your behavior becomes more exaggerated.

3. At .08, you experience more of these effects, plus short-term memory problems. You tend to drive faster even though you experience a reduction in your concentration and ability to process information.

Of course, a BAC higher than .08 makes driving extremely dangerous, and the chances of causing an accident increase exponentially along with your BAC level. You might feel fine at a BAC under .08, but in reality, you risk your life and the lives of those around you.

How do these physical and mental changes affect driving?

The changes above cause numerous adverse effects on your driving.

1. A lack of judgment could cause you to take chances while driving that you would not consider otherwise.

2. Since many accidents happen in only seconds, any slowing of your reaction time could mean the difference between avoiding a crash and causing one.

3. Driving requires coordination among your hands, feet and eyes. Reduced coordination after drinking reduces your ability to react to a situation on the road.

4. A reduction in your concentration translates to a reduction in your attention span. Your inability to pay adequate attention to the road could cause a wreck.

5. Alcohol changes your ability to see clearly -- literally. A reduction in your ability to judge distances between you and other vehicles and to use your peripheral vision make driving dangerous.

If you normally drive conservatively in order to avoid an accident, a reduction in your inhibitions due to alcohol could cause you to take unnecessary risks behind the wheel. For these reasons, drunk driving accidents often involve serious injuries and deaths.

What if the other driver's BAC falls below .08 in an accident? Can I still recover damages?

Even if police do not arrest a driver for drunk driving because of a BAC lower than .08, you might still receive compensation through a civil claim. A breath test would still indicate the presence of alcohol, which could contribute to an accident. The burden of proof required for a criminal conviction exceeds that of a civil claim. You only need to prove that alcohol contributed to the accident. A BAC as low as .02 on the part of the driver believed to have caused the accident could establish negligence.

You would more than likely benefit from the advice and assistance of an attorney. He or she explains your rights, conducts an investigation into the crash and advises you regarding whether the filing of a personal injury claim, or a wrongful death claim if you lost a loved one, would provide you with the compensation you deserve. An Indiana attorney could advocate on your behalf and provide you with the freedom to focus on recovering from your injuries or mourning the loss of a loved one.

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