The study's bottom line: Even if you've consumed very little alcohol, your decision-making skills are hampered more than you realize and the results could be deadly considering that nationally, 38 percent of all traffic deaths involve alcohol. In Texas, the rate is a staggering 49 percent, which leads the nation.
In a study titled Analysis and Evaluation of the Effects of Varying Blood Alcohol Concentrations on Driving Abilities, Texas A&M researchers led by Dr. Maurice Dennis tested 19 men and women of various ages and ethnic backgrounds performing driving skills at different blood alcohol concentrations (BACs).
Dennis and his team measured blood alcohol concentration throughout the driving test. Impaired driving skills were expected by those drivers who had reached illegal BACs, but the surprising results came from drivers who had small amounts of alcohol in their systems.
"In Texas and 20 other states, the blood alcohol concentration level to be legally intoxicated is .08," Dennis says. "But we found that persons who registered a .04 - one-half the amount it takes to be legally intoxicated - had significant impairment in their driving abilities.
"In a nutshell, what it means is you don't have to be staggering, fall-down drunk to have driving problems if you've drinking. A very small amount can affect your driving ability and especially the decisions you make while driving. A person may think to himself or herself, 'I've only had a couple of beers so I can drive okay,' but their judgment can be severely affected and they don't even know it."