Anyone who has obtained a driver’s license knows that drinking and driving is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. Responsible drivers simply do not drink to excess and drive. However, there is a difference between having a glass or two of wine over the course of a dinner that spans two hours and getting rip-roaring drunk. The problem is that there is no universal cutoff that allows you to know if you have crossed the legal safety threshold. There are, however, a variety of factors that can help you determine whether you are over the legal limit or not.
Every Body Has its Own Capacity for Alcohol
If you and your buddies all go out for a few drinks after work and all drink exactly the same amount, it is likely that no two of you will leave the event with the same blood alcohol content (BAC). This is because everyone’s physical characteristics play a role in how a unit of alcohol affects his or her BAC. These characteristics include:
- Whether you are male or female
- Your personal ratio of fat to muscle
- Your overall physical build
- Your stress level at the time
- The amount of food that remains undigested in your stomach prior to having the drinks
- Your personal metabolism (the rate at which you transfer the energy stored in food into physical energy in your body)
If each of you present at this happy hour have two identical drinks over the course of two hours, most of you will probably remain legal to drive, but this is not necessarily true of all of you.
How Much Time Has Elapsed?
If you’re going out for a drink or two, it is important to keep in mind that you will have to get back in your car and drive after. Although it is legal to drive safely with a BAC under 0.08 percent, it is very difficult to know when you have hit this limit. While the amount of time that elapses before you get back behind the wheel plays an important role, it is critical to keep in mind that you may be called away earlier than you expected. In other words, if you are going to be out for a while, cutting off the alcohol early is a great idea. A better idea, however, is planning an alternative from the get-go. For example, having a designated driver or Ubering to and from the outing takes the element of danger out of the equation.
Things as innocuous as using your asthma inhaler, rinsing with mouthwash, or taking certain cough syrups could affect your BAC. While mixing prescription medications with alcohol is obviously a bad idea, you may not give OTC medications a second thought. In the end, many factors can contribute to your BAC and whether or not you find yourself saddled with a DWI.