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You don't have to be legally drunk to be dangerous

With New Year's Eve approaching, it is a good idea for Tampa area residents to remind themselves of the importance of driving sober. If people are planning to have some fun on the last day of the year, they should remember to get a designated driver.

Those who do choose not to take these simple steps run the risk of causing a serious drunk driving accident that could leave another motorist permanently disabled or disfigured.

Should this happen, the drunk driver will not only have to pay his or her debt to society in the ensuing criminal case, he or she also will have a legal obligation to pay compensation to his or her victims for the victims' lost wages, medical bills and pain and suffering. Punitive damages are also a real possibility following a drunk driving accident.

What some Florida residents might not realize, however, is that a driver need not be legally drunk in order to cause an alcohol-related accident. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a federal agency, drivers start to show signs of impaired judgment even when they have .02 blood alcohol content, the equivalent of one drink.

At .02 BAC, a person may also have a harder time doing two things at once, which is a skill that is necessary to drive a vehicle safely and effectively.

Just because a person was not legally drunk at the time of an accident, it does not mean that their alcohol use did not contribute to the accident. Only a thorough investigation of the circumstances, with the help of an experienced Florida personal injury attorney, can determine what role alcohol played in causing a victim's injuries. If alcohol is a contributing factor in an accident, however, victims may be able to recover compensation.

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