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What’s the difference between legally impaired and buzzed driving?

On Behalf of | Jun 27, 2024 | DWI |

Understanding the distinction between legally impaired and buzzed driving can help you avoid legal consequences. Both conditions impact a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely.  However, the law defines and treats them differently.

Legally impaired driving

Legally impaired driving in Missouri refers to operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. It applies to drivers who are 21 and over. 

For commercial drivers, the limit is 0.04%, and for drivers under 21, any detectable amount of alcohol (0.02% BAC or higher) can result in legal penalties.

Legal consequences

If a driver is found to have a BAC at or above these limits, the law considers them legally impaired. The law can charge them with driving under the influence (DUI). Penalties for DUI can include:

  • Fines
  • Mandatory alcohol education programs
  • License suspension or revocation
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device
  • Jail time, especially for repeat offenders

Impact on driving

Legally impaired drivers exhibit significant impairment in their reaction time and decision-making abilities. This level of intoxication increases the risk of accidents.

Buzzed driving

Buzzed driving may not always reach the legal BAC threshold for impairment, still poses serious risks. Buzzed driving refers to operating a vehicle with a BAC below the legal limit. 

Legal implications

While buzz driving may not always result in immediate legal penalties, it is still dangerous and can lead to DUI charges. Missouri law enforcement officers can use their discretion to determine if a driver is impaired based on observed behavior and performance on field sobriety tests.

Legally impaired and buzzed driving presents significant dangers on the road. Understanding these distinctions emphasizes the importance of avoiding any level of alcohol consumption when planning to drive.