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Drinking even a little bit of alcohol increases the risk of driving accidents, a new study finds. The study shows that the severity of life-threatening motor vehicle accidents increases significantly at blood alcohol levels far lower than the current United States limit of 0.08 percent.

The researchers say that lowering the legal limit could save lives and prevent serious injuries. They studied data from every person in the U. S. who was involved in a fatal car accident from 1994 to 2008—a total of 1,495,667 people. Science Daily reports the researchers found that accidents are 36.6 percent more severe even when alcohol was barely detectable in a driver’s blood.

Lead researcher David Phillips from the University of California, San Diego, who reported his findings in the journal Addiction, wrote that people who are ‘buzzed’ are more likely than sober drivers to speed, to be improperly seatbelted and to drive the striking vehicle in an accident. All of these factors are associated with greater accident severity, he notes. He found a strong ‘dose-response’ relationship between these factors—for example, the greater a person’s blood-alcohol content, the faster he or she is likely to drive.

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