International Drink Driving Research

At what lower BAC level does driving impairment set in?’

That question has been answered by Moskowitz & Robinson 1988 which summarised 177 global studies on the subject for example. It found that impairment sets in from 20mg onwards.

A ‘Review of the Literature on the Effects of Low Doses of Alcohol on Driving-Related Skills’, by Moskowitz & Fiorentino, 2000, summarized 112 studies. This study concluded that impairment was reported by more studies in this review for lower BAC levels than in the 1988 review by Moskowitz and Robinson. It finds that there is ‘strong evidence that impairment of some driving-related skills begins with any departure from zero BAC’.

Zador et al. 2000 also estimates that the risk of being involved in a fatal crash for drivers at BAC levels as low as 20mg to 40mg is anywhere from two times to five times higher than for drivers with zero BAC. The risk of a fatal crash is 4 to 10 times greater at BACs between 50mg and 70 compared to drivers with zero BAC.

Further International research:

Key research

AA Motorists Panel survey, (2008) No sympathy for drink drivers http://www.aaireland.ie/publicaffairs/press-centre/drink-drivers.aspx Accessed on 02/10/09


Anderson, P. & Baumberg, B. (2006) Alcohol in Europe. London: Institute of Alcohol Studies http://ec.europa.eu/health-eu/doc/alcoholineurope_en.zip Accessed on 02/10/09


Anderson, P., (2008) ‘Reducing Drinking and Driving in Europe’, Institute of Alcohol Report http://www.ias.org.uk/resources/papers/europe/phproject/drinkdriving-report.pdf Accessed on 02/10/09


Bedford, D., McKeown, A., O’Farrell, Howell, F. (2008) Alcohol in fatal road crashes in Ireland in 2003 to 2005, Population Health Directorate, Health Service Executive, Naas.


Bedford, D., O’Farrell, Howell, F. (2004) ‘Blood Alcohol Levels In Persons Who Died As A Result Of Road Traffic Crashes, in Cavan, Monaghan and Louth in 2001 and 2002’ by Specialist in Public Health Medicine, North Eastern Health Board


Bedford, D., McKeon, A., Vellinga, A., Howell, F., (2005) ‘Alcohol in Fatal Road Crashes in Ireland’ http://www.rsa.ie/publication/publication/upload/DrBedfordsPresentation.pdf


CAWT, (2006) Steering to Safety: Summary Report, Co-Operation And Working Together, HSE, Health Promotion Unit NE


Department of The Environment (Northern Ireland) and Road Safety Authority, (2006) Summary of scientific evidence behind ‘Just one Drink Impairs Driving http://www.rsa.ie/publication/publication/upload/Scientific Summary lres.pdf Accessed 02/10/09


EU, (2001) Commission Recommendation: on the maximum permitted blood alcohol content (BAC) for drivers of motorised vehicles,. 17 January 2001 (2001/115/EC) http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:32001H0115:EN:NOT Accessed 05/10/09


Fell, J.C, R. Voas, (2009) In drugs, Driving and Traffic Safety (eds) Verster, J.C., S.R. Pandi-Perumal, J.G. Ramaekers and J.J. Gier. Reducing Illegal Blood Alcohol Limits for Driving: Effects on Traffic Safety. Birkhauser.


Health Research Board, (2007), Research relating to the consumption of Alcohol. Nov. Henstridge, (1997), cited in Bedford, D., McKeown, N., O’Farrell,Howell, F. ( 2005), Alcohol in fatal road crashes in Ireland in 2003 to 2005, Population Health Directorate, Health Service Executive, Naas.


Horne, J.A., Rayner, L.A., and Barrett, P.A. (2003) Driving Impairment due to Sleepiness is Exacerbated by Low Alcohol Intake. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 60.Sleep Research Centre, Loughborough University, UK


HSE, (2008), Alcohol Related Harm in Ireland. Pp 12-18 www.hse.ie Accessed on 02/10/09


McGovern & Cusack, D. (2006) Single Vehicle Collisions in County Kildare and Road Safety in Ireland Medical Bureau of Road Safety, (2006) Annual Report.


Moskowitz, H. and Burns, M. (1990), Effects of alcohol on driving performance. Alcohol Health and Research World, Winter 1990 Moskowitz, H. and Fiorentino, D. (2000) A review of Literature on the Effects of Low Doses of Alcohol on Driving-Related Skills, U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Washington, DC.


Moskowitz, H., & Robinson, C. D. (1988) Effects of low doses of alcohol on driving-related skills: A review of the evidence. (Report No. DOT HS 807 280) Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, SRA Technologies, Inc


Philip, P., Vervialle, F., Le Breton, P. (2001) Fatigue, Alcohol and Serious Road Crashes in France: factorial study of national data. British Medical Journal, 322: 829-830 RSA (2008), Road Safety Education and Research Briefing Note on Blood alcohol Levels http://www.transport.ie/upload/general/10568-0.doc Accessed on 02/10/09


Shiner, D. (2007) Traffic Safety and Human Behaviour, Elsevier.


World Health Organization, (2009) Global Status Report on Road Safety: Time for Action


Albalate, D. (2006) Lowering Blood Alcohol Content to Save Lives: The European Experience, Research Unit of Public Policy and Economic Regulation, University of Barcelona http://www.ub.es/irea/working_papers/2006/200603.pdf Accessed 02/10/09


Alcohol Addiction Ireland http://www.alcoholactionireland.ie/alcoholinfo/drinkdrivingfacts.html Accessed 02/10/09


Australian Transport Safety Bureau http://www.atsb.gov.au/ Accessed on 02/10/09


Haworth, N., Smith, R., Brumen, I. (2002) ‘Case-control Study of Motorcycle Crashes Report CR 174’, Australian Transport Safety Bureau, Canberra

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