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How Many Drinks Can You Have and Still Drive?

by Gregory Shaw
How Many Drinks Can You Have and Still Drive

There is a lot of debate over how much alcohol is “safe” to drink before driving. Understanding how drinking affects your driving ability is crucial to ensuring your own and others’ safety.

Over 30 years of public advocacy have not succeeded in reducing the death toll from drunk driving. To crack down on drunk driving, many states continue to enforce stronger drunk driving laws due to its prevalence.

What is the Legal Limit to Drive?

Almost every state has a legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08, which means if you have a BAC of .08 or more, you are legally impaired in the United States. You can be arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) if you are pulled over, and a BAC level of .08 percent or higher is found in your blood sample.

How Many Drinks Can You Have To Stay Below the Limit?

Blood alcohol content, or BAC, determines the legal limit for alcohol consumption. Your blood alcohol concentration is determined by many factors, including age, gender, body type, metabolic rate, food consumption, and alcohol type and amount. 

Estimated Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) for the Average Person

Weight in lbsNumber of drinks to reach .08% BAC
100 lbs3 drinks/hr
140 lbs4 drinks/hr
180 lbs5 drinks/hr
220 lbs6 drinks/hr

Both prescription and over-the-counter medicines can cause impairment, even if the BAC is not significantly increased. As a result, even drinking fewer drinks can cause more impairment, such as a loss of vision, slower response times, and other driving functions. 

It’s Not Enough to Believe You’re Sober

It is possible for some people to build up a resistance to alcohol or have a high tolerance for it. Many of these individuals feel sober even if their blood alcohol level exceeds the legal limit. Drinking and driving is dangerous, regardless of how sober you are.

Use of Ignition Interlock Devices to Prevent Drunk Driving

An ignition interlock device is the most effective way to prevent drunk driving. Over 3 million attempts to start a vehicle while drunk have been prevented by IIDs, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, installing an IID in a vehicle reduces repeat driving offenses by 74 percent.

Get A Safe Ride Home By Planning Ahead

Making safer choices about driving after drinking can be achieved by understanding how the body processes alcohol.

Alternatively, you can rotate designated driving duties with someone else to make sure you’re always the safe driver. You can also take public transportation after drinking if you are concerned, or arrange to ride with a friend, taxi service, or ridesharing service. The best way to stay safe on the road is to avoid driving after drinking.

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