Forensic Toxicologists: Helping to Keep Roads Safe

There has never been a safer time to drive than now; freeways now have stoplights and all modern cars have fine safety features like multiple air bags. However, every 48 minutes, a person dies not for lack of safety but due to drunk drivers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 10,000 people died in 2010 because of alcohol-related crashes, with damages costing more than $51 billion.

Unfortunately, many people think they can still drive safely if they’ve only had a glass of wine or a bottle of beer. In reality though, even a small amount of alcohol can impair a driver’s senses and ultimately cause an accident. In fact, having a blood alcohol level (BAC) of just 0.08% will make you legally drunk in the eyes of the law.

Still, there are many factors that cause a person to register a 0.08% BAC even if they aren’t intoxicated. Taking certain medications will make you register as drunk even if you’d had only one drink. If you haven’t eaten prior to drinking, you’re also more likely to fail a Breathalyzer test. Other factors such as gender, weight, and body fat percentage can also throw off blood alcohol tests.

To help the courts decide on drunk driving cases, forensic toxicologists are often called upon as expert witnesses. They mainly analyze the defendant’s blood alcohol levels and explain to court the implications of the test’s results.

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