Many people wonder if there is an amount of alcohol that is “safe” to drink before driving. To ensure your own safety and the safety of others, you need to understand how drinking affects your driving abilities.
Your body begins breaking down alcohol as soon as it enters your bloodstream, and you’re affected within minutes of having your first drink. Some people fail to realize how quickly your system is impacted by alcohol.
This lack of knowledge is one reason drunk driving remains the number one cause of death on our nation’s roads despite over 30 years of public advocacy. Due to the continued prevalence of this dangerous act, many states continue to work to strengthen drunk driving laws to crack down on people who drive while impaired.
What’s the Legal BAC Limit?
When it comes to alcohol, the legal limit in almost every state is a .08 blood alcohol concentration, which means if your BAC is .08 or higher, you’re considered legally impaired in the U.S. If you’re found over the legal alcohol limit while driving, meaning you were pulled over and provided a blood sample found to be .08 percent or higher, you’ll be arrested for driving under the influence (DUI).
At the end of 2018, Utah implemented the strictest DUI law in the country, lowering its legal BAC limit to 0.05. Other states are considering lowering their limits to .05, but it has yet to be passed by law anywhere apart from Utah. The National Transportation Safety Administration has been pushing for this limit to be lowered nationwide.
How Many Drinks Can You Consume Before Reaching the Limit?
The alcohol legal limit is determined by blood alcohol content, or BAC. BAC measures the amount of alcohol present in your blood and is affected by many factors: your weight, body type, age, sex, your metabolism, how much food you’ve had to eat, type of alcohol (beer, wine, liquor) and the serving size of the alcohol being consumed. The legal BAC limit is the amount of alcohol content in your blood you can have while still being able to legally drive.
Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Estimates for an Average Person
||Number of drinks needed to reach .08% BAC
||3 drinks per hour
||4 drinks per hour
||5 drinks per hour
||6 drinks per hour
Additionally, both prescription and over the counter (OTC) medications consumed with alcohol may increase the level of impairment without substantially increasing the BAC. This can result in fewer drinks causing higher levels of impairment such as vision, response time, and other important functions for safe driving. Follow all professional medical directions on avoiding alcohol consumption while taking medications.
How reliable is a BAC Calculator?
You can easily find a chart or calculator that will help you determine your BAC level. However, these charts are only estimates — they do not consider what you’ve had to drink, your weight, sex, or any medications you may be on that could influence your BAC. Sometimes people use these calculators to try to figure out if they can legally drive, but you shouldn’t be relying on a BAC calculator estimate in these situations to determine if you are within the legal limit of alcohol to drive. The only way to get sober is to allow your body time to metabolize the alcohol, so these common tricks people try to sober up won’t work.
Believing You’re Sober is Not Enough
Some people have a high tolerance for alcohol, or build up a resistance. These people frequently feel sober even when they’re over the alcohol legal limit. Regardless of how sober you feel, If you drink and drive, you can put your life, and the lives of others, in danger.
Preventing Drunk Driving with an Ignition Interlock Device
Ignition interlock devices (IIDs) are the most effective method for preventing drunk driving. Mothers Against Drunk Driving reports that IIDs have prevented more than 3 million attempts to start a vehicle while a person was intoxicated. And the California Department of Motor Vehicles reports a 74 percent reduction in repeat driving offenses when an IID is installed in a vehicle.
Plan Ahead for a Safe Way Home
Understanding how your body processes alcohol and how many drinks will take you over the legal BAC limit helps make safer choices about driving after drinking.
However, you can be even safer by staying sober so you’re the safe driver, or sharing designated driving duties on a rotating basis. If you’re concerned, you can also consider arranging for a safe ride home with a friend, taxi or rideshare service, or public transportation after a night of drinking. If you avoid driving after drinking you have the best chance of staying safe on the road.
Want more information about Intoxalock ignition devices? A state specialist can help determine the specific guidelines for your area. Call them at 833-623-0200 for help.