North Carolina law prohibits people from operating motor vehicles when they have a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or above. Strong law enforcement efforts since the 1980s have reduced the number of drunk driving accidents, but they remain a leading source of traffic fatalities. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drunk drivers contribute to roughly one-third of all fatal traffic crashes.

The NHTSA reported that 10,874 people died in wrecks involving drunk drivers in 2017. This number of annual deaths has remained consistent over the previous 10 years. Alcohol consumption has such a deleterious effect on driving ability because it impairs thinking, reasoning, and muscle coordination.

Someone with a .08 BAC will generally experience impaired balance, speech, vision, and reaction time. People at this level of intoxication have difficulty concentrating and detecting dangers on the road. The effects become worse with BACs at .10 and higher. Coordination becomes much more impaired, and drivers will struggle to keep their vehicles in the proper lane or brake when necessary.

Although the most serious criminal penalties arise when drivers reach the .08 BAC, levels below the legal threshold for impairment still impact people’s ability to drive. The NHTSA found that 1,837 people died in crashes in 2017 with drivers who had BACs between .01 and .07.

Car accidents caused by drunk drivers often leave occupants of other vehicles needing extensive and costly medical care and treatment, and many victims are unable to return to work as a result. They might find it advisable to have a lawyer’s help when seeking compensation for their losses.