Every 48 minutes in California and across the United States, an individual dies in a car accident caused by a drunken driver. Though drunk driving death rates have decreased over the past 30 years, alcohol still plays a factor in the deaths of over 10,000 people each year on the road.

Alcohol often plays a role in motor vehicle accidents because it impairs thinking, reduces brain function and slows muscle coordination and reasoning. When an individual drinks alcohol, it absorbs directly through the walls of the small intestine and stomach. From there, it goes straight into the bloodstream, where it accumulates until the liver processes it. It takes an hour for the average person’s liver to process 10 grams of alcohol. This is the equivalent of one small drink. The remaining alcohol builds up in the bloodstream.

The measurement of alcohol in the blood is known as blood alcohol concentration (BAC). As BAC levels increase in the bloodstream, the effects become more pronounced in the brain. In most states, the legal limit is 0.08. However, even BAC levels of 0.02 have been found to impair a person’s driving. The BAC is typically measured in drivers by the use of a Breathalyzer test. It can also be tested with a blood draw by a lab technician.

Those who choose to drink before operating a car may cause a serious car accident to occur. Motor vehicle accidents caused by drunk drivers can cause devastating effects, including loss of life, costly medical bills, pain and suffering and lost wages. When a person drives under the influence of alcohol or drugs, he or she behaved negligently and may be responsible for damages filed in a civil suit. In this case, a family that lost a loved one due to a drunken driver may be able to collect medical and compensatory damages by filing a lawsuit with a personal injury lawyer.