Many people wonder if there is an amount of alcohol that is “safe” to drink while still being able to drive their vehicles. To ensure your own safety and the safety of others, the first thing you must understand how drinking affects your driving abilities.
Because your body begins to break down alcohol as it enters your blood stream, your body is impacted by alcohol within minutes of consumption. People fail to realize how the body is immediately impacted by alcohol.
This is one reason why 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.
Legal BAC Limit
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 pulled over and provide a blood sample that is .08 or higher, you’ll be arrested for driving under the influence.
At the end of 2018, Utah implemented the strictest DUI law in the country, lowering its BAC limit to 0.05. Other states are considering .05 legal limit but no additional states have passed it in to law.
How Many Drinks Can You Consume Before Reaching the Limit?
A 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.
Here are BAC estimates for an average person:
· At 100 lbs., it takes about three drinks an hour to reach a .08% BAC.
· At 140 lbs., it takes about four drinks an hour to reach a .08% BAC.
· At 180 lbs., it takes about five drinks an hour to reach a .08% BAC.
· At 220 lbs., it takes about six drinks an hour to reach a .08% BAC.
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.
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’re had to drink, how much you weigh, your sex, medications you take that could influence the outcome and more.
Sometimes people use these calculaters to try to figure out if they can legally drive, but a BAC calculator is only an estimation and should not be relied upon in these situations. Other times, people try these common myths to sober up before getting behind the wheel, but the only solution is time.
Thinking You Are Sober Is Not Enough
Some people build a tolerance to alcohol over time, and can frequently feel sober even when they’re over the legal limit. If you drink and drive, you can put your life, and the lives of others, in danger.
This news article covers a story about a man who was driving under the influence. Juan Carlos Rodriguez-Palacios, of Salem, Oregon, caused a triple fatal crash, killing three teens. It was reported that Rodriguez-Palacios had drank eight beers before getting behind the wheel, and a breath test indicated he had a blood alcohol level of .112.
Preventing Drunk Driving
Ignition interlock devices (IIDs) are the most effective method to prevent drunk driving. Mothers Against Drunk Driving reports that IIDs have prevented more than 2.3 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 many drinks will impact your BAC will help you make safer choices when it comes to drinking and driving. By maintaining sobriety so that you are the safe driver, or by arranging for a safe ride home with a friend, taxi or ride share service, or by public transportation after a night of drinking, you can be assured of your own safety on the roads.