Impaired Driving: What Does .08 Look Like?

Thanksgiving weekend is the most traveled holiday period of the year and DUI arrests are at their highest between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Impaired drivers make it a dangerous time to be on the road. Why? Because alcohol and drugs decrease your ability to drive a motor vehicle safely. The more you consume, the more you are impaired. Impaired driving alters your judgment, response time and other driving abilities so when you decide to get behind the wheel to drive, there is a higher likelihood that you will be involved in a car accident.

This general overview may help you gain a better understanding of how alcohol and drugs can affect your driving abilities.

What is .08 BAC?

impaired driving ability to drive drugs and alcohol DUI alcohol decreasesYour level of impairment is measured by what is referred to as blood alcohol concentration or BAC. This is used because alcohol concentration in the body is directly related to impairment. However, it’s important to note that the amount of alcohol required to become impaired differs according to things such as how fast you drink, your weight, your gender, and how much food you have eaten.

No matter these variables, a person is considered legally intoxicated at a .08 BAC level.

What does that look like behind the wheel?

At just a .02 BAC level, there is some loss of judgment, a decline in visual functions and a decline in the ability to perform two tasks at the same time.

At a .05 BAC level, it gets harder to focus your eyes, judgement is impaired and you have a lowered alertness level. What this means when you are behind the wheel:

  • reduced coordination
  • reduced ability to track moving objects
  • reduced response to emergency driving situations.

At a .08 BAC level — when you are considered legally intoxicated — muscle coordination is impacted, which includes speech, vision, reaction time and hearing; and judgment, reasoning and memory are also impaired. When behind the wheel, this means:

  • Critical driving tasks are significantly impaired (i.e., braking, steering)
  • Ability to handle several tasks at one time is significantly reduced
  • Ability to detect danger is severely reduced
  • Impaired judgement and perception, which can lead to speeding and erratic lane changing
  • Slower reaction time and a decrease in coordination

At all BACs, fatal crash risk is much higher among 16-20 year-old drivers than among drivers 21 and older. At a BAC of 0.08 percent compared with a zero BAC, the likelihood of involvement in a fatal crash is 10 times as high among 16-20 year-old drivers; 7 times as high among drivers ages 21-34; and 6 times as high among drivers 35 and older.

Alcohol Impaired Driving Statistics

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that in 2021, 13,384 people died in alcohol-impaired motor vehicle crashes – that’s one person every 39 minutes.

higher likelihood involved in a car accident motor vehicle safelyOther drunk driving statistics as reported on the MADD website:

  • Every 79 seconds someone is killed or injured in a drunk driving crash.
  • 1 in 4 car crashes with teens involve an underage drunk driver.
  • For teenagers, car crashes are the leading cause of death.
  • 2 out of 3 people will be impacted by drunk driving in their lifetime.

MADD has helped to cut drunk driving deaths by half or 50%. As of December 31, 2021, MADD has served more than 900,000 victims.



If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident in which you suffered serious injuries due to a drug or alcohol impaired driver, having an attorney who is your advocate can offer you peace of mind during your recovery. Call Nash & Franciskato at (877) 284-6600.

One of our experienced staff will speak with you personally and will provide you with a free, no-obligation review of your case.



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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published November 23, 2015. It was reviewed on November 16, 2023, updated for content and accuracy and re-published on November 21, 2023.

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