The Difference Between Buzzed and Drunk Driving Accidents

Feb 23, 2021

Drunk driving is one of the leading causes of car accidents and traffic fatalities. In fact, someone dies in a drunk driving accident in the United States every fifty minutes—totaling out to over 10,000 deaths in a single year. What makes these fatalities even more regrettable is that drunk driving accidents, compared to accidents caused by weather or your car malfunctioning, are easily preventable.

If you ever find yourself involved in a drunk driving accident, it’s important to reach out to an experienced drunk driving accident attorney. When you’re not sure where to turn, don’t hesitate to Call Paul. Here at the Paul Wilkinson Law Firm, we’re dedicated to defending the rights of anyone involved in personal injury cases, including car accidents, drunk driving accidents, and truck accidents.

Even if you believe you’re partially at fault, give us a call. Our team of lawyers will educate you on the specifics of your case, assess the situation, and determine whether or not your case is entitled to any form of legal compensation. Our experience and expertise in personal injury cases is unmatched.

We hope that you will never be involved in a drunk driving accident. To reduce the number of these accidents, we believe that education is an important tool. In this blog, we’re dissecting the key differences between buzzed driving and drunk driving and demonstrating how even a small amount of alcohol in your system can impair your ability to safely drive. We then review alternatives to driving under the influence that everyone should know. Even if you’ve only had one or two drinks, it’s never worth it to get behind the wheel.


Whenever someone operates a motor vehicle and their blood alcohol content (BAC) is above the legal limit, this is considered drunk driving. In every state in the US, the legal limit is 0.08 percent. If your BAC is 0.10, for example, this means that your blood supply contains one part alcohol for every 1,000 parts of blood.

Everyone processes alcohol differently and your BAC depends on a variety of factors. The number of drinks consumed, your body weight, enzyme production, and the amount of time in which the drinks were consumed all impact your BAC. Despite the myths that would claim otherwise, there is no quick fix for sobering up. Simply chugging coffee or water won’t make an impact on your BAC. Your body needs time to naturally process the alcohol—no matter how many drinks you’ve had.


While most of us are familiar with the risks associated with drunk driving, it’s common for people to wonder: what is buzzed driving? Buzzed driving refers to any time that someone is operating their vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) between 0.01 and 0.07 percent. Thus, while they may be below the legal BAC limit, they are still driving under the influence and may not be able to safely operate their vehicle.

Compared to drunk driving, buzzed driving is a bit more ambiguous in legal terms. Laws pertaining to buzzed driving differ from state to state and may have different ramifications. In many states, you can still receive a DUI for buzzed driving if you are pulled over by a police officer.

Some of these buzzed driving charges can be pleaded to a lesser charge known as a “wet reckless” charge. In these cases, you’re pleading guilty to reckless driving instead of a DUI or DWAI, which is a lesser charge. However, in most cases, the individual will still be required to complete an alcohol education course.


Technically, the difference between buzzed driving and drunk driving is the driver’s blood alcohol content. While driving with a BAC of 0.01 to 0.07 is considered buzzed driving, a BAC of 0.08 crosses the threshold into drunk driving.

Additional differences lie within the legal repercussions. Each state has specific laws concerning drunk driving and buzzed driving, but overall, drunk driving laws are more consistent. Generally, if you’re arrested while drunk driving, you’ll receive a DUI, which can come with heavy fines, loss of driving privileges, or even jail time. Buzzed drivers can still get a DUI, but these can be pleaded down in some cases to a “wet reckless” charge.


While—legally—buzzed driving is different than drunk driving, buzzed driving is still just as dangerous. Any amount of alcohol in your system can impair your ability to see the road, make quick decisions, and safely operate your vehicle. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), created a chart that details the predictable effects on your driving as your BAC increases. Here’s a brief glance at these effects:

  • 0.02 BAC – reduced visual functioning and ability to multitask
  • 0.05 BAC – difficulty steering and an overall reduction in your ability to concentrate on the road and track other moving objects.
  • 0.08 BAC – difficulty controlling speed, processing visual information, and reduced concentration and short-term memory.
  • 0.10 BAC – impaired ability to brake and maintain lane control.
  • 0.15 BAC – impaired ability to process auditory and visual information and control your vehicle.

As you can see, any amount of alcohol in your system impacts your ability to safely and effectively operate your vehicle. It’s simply never worth it to get behind the wheel when you’ve been drinking—even if it’s just a few and you think you feel fine. In many cases, it takes time to feel the full effects of alcohol, which means that you could become even more impaired while you’re driving.


There are many different alternatives to operating your vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Even if you’ve just had a few, it simply isn’t worth the risk. Here are a few options for getting home safely if you’ve been out drinking:

  • Designate a sober driver before going out.
  • Ridesharing services (Uber and Lyft).
  • Call a taxi.
  • Ask the host if you can stay or if they know any sober drivers.
  • Get a hotel room (this may seem costly at the time, but it’s still much cheaper than the fines associated with a DUI).


In the eyes of the law, buzzed driving and drunk driving may be different, but they still lead to the same result. No matter the number of drinks, alcohol still impairs your ability to control your vehicle, slows your reaction time, and makes it harder for you to respond to changing road conditions. If found guilty of buzzed or drunk driving, a driver may face heavy fines, loss of their license, or even jail time. It’s never worth the risk to drive under the influence.

However, if you find yourself involved in a buzzed driving or drunk driving accident, you should reach out to an experienced car injury attorney in Denver. Following a car accident, the last thing you should be worrying about is paying for medical bills, recovering wages, or the long process of fighting your case in court. We operate on contingency fees, which means that we only get paid if you win your case.

Contact us at the Paul Wilkinson Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation. With a simple phone call to 303-333-7285, we’ll assess your individual case, help you understand your legal options, and get you started on the road to recovery from your buzzed or drunk driving accident.

The Paul Wilkinson Law Firm | Website | + posts

The Paul Wilkinson Law Firm is a team of personal injury attorneys in Denver, CO serving victims of car, truck and motorcycle accidents. Each of our lawyers is licensed with the Colorado State Bar (CBA) and specialize in injury law.

We've recovered tens of millions of dollars in personal injury settlements and verdicts for our clients. For 13+ years we've helped thousands of people get back on their feet after experiencing serious injuries. We will take your case to trial and get the maximum settlement possible.

Previous Post

Next Post

Related Posts



denver personal injury attorney