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Driving Responsibility: How Many Beers Can You Drink and Drive Safely

Anyone who has ever gone out for drinks with friends or had a glass of wine or beer with dinner has wondered when they should stop or how many drinks can they have and still safely drive home. The exact answer to that question is very difficult to give because so many factors go into what determines being over the legal limit.

How many beers can you drink before putting yourself at risk for a DUI? There is not a one size fits all equation and guidelines are just that.

There is information available to help break down the variables involved to educate each person on their own best decision on when to stop drinking, when it is okay to drive or when they should just choose not to drive at all.

Let’s take a look at how much alcohol is too much.

What Is a Drink?

This seems like an easy question, but depending on who is pouring or mixing; one drink could easily have enough alcohol to be considered two or even three.

For the purpose of calculating Blood Alcohol Content (BAC), one drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor. The difference in ounces represents the alcohol concentration of each drink, but each is still considered one serving of alcohol.

What this means is that having two glasses (5 ounces each) of wine or two 12 ounce beers have the same effect on your body. The conclusion is no one specific type of alcohol is safer to drink and it doesn’t matter which kind if the same number of ‘drinks’ are consumed.

The average time it takes for one drink to be eliminated from the body is about one hour. This means, having one drink with dinner should probably dissipate by the end of the meal. Having one drink with dessert and then driving home still leaves most of the effects from that one drink in your system.

The Chemistry of BAC

Shortly after that first drink, your BAC will start to rise. The more you continue to drink, the higher it goes. A blood alcohol level of 0.08% is the legal determination for being intoxicated while driving in most states. This percentage means that 8% of your blood is now actually alcohol.

The very reason the term is called blood alcohol content is that the measurement is found in your bloodstream. When we eat food our body goes through a digestion process through the stomach, intestines and so on. This is not how alcohol is processed in the body.

As soon as alcohol reaches the stomach, the body starts to reject it and works on getting rid of it. Instead of breaking it down with acids and sending it on to the small intestine, it is absorbed through the lining of the stomach and immediately enters the bloodstream.

Once it is in our bloodstream it is there for detection and it also very quickly works its way into the brain where it can start to affect motor skills and thinking. This can happen in as little as fifteen minutes.

From the bloodstream, it finally gets broken down through the liver. It is then released from the body through urine. That is the reason for all the bathroom trips when you’ve been drinking.

The only way for a BAC to do down is after it is metabolized in the liver. Food, exercise or drinking coffee does nothing to hamper or disguise the levels in the bloodstream.

Does Alcohol Affect Everyone the Same?

The answer to that is no. There are 5 main factors that go into that equation.

Your Weight

Simply put, the more you weigh, the more blood you have and the more you can drink before your BAC reaches the legal limit. A 100-pound person and a 200-pound person having just one drink would register differently even if tested at the same time.

Your Gender

Unfortunately, gender does play a role. The body of a woman is biologically designed to have more fat. Alcohol cannot penetrate fat cells so more of it stays in the bloodstream. So even if a man and woman weigh the same and have exactly the same amount of alcohol, the woman will test out with a higher BAC.

Your Liver

Most of us probably have healthy and full functioning livers, however since the liver is the last place it stops before leaving the body, if the liver is not working properly it can make a difference. A healthy liver will typically metabolize 1 ounce of alcohol an hour.

Your Food

How much food you eat before drinking makes a difference. Drinking on an empty stomach gets the alcohol into your system faster. Food in the stomach slows down the absorption of the alcohol and lowers the BAC.

Your Medication

Over the counter and prescriptions medicines are both affected by alcohol. In fact, some specifically advise you not to drink at all while taking them. For your health’s sake, as well as your BAC, it is important to understand how the medicines you are currently taking will react with your drinking.

How Many Beers Can You Drink Before Getting Pulled Over

Being pulled over is always scary and a little frustrating, but knowing you have been drinking adds another layer of fear. There is more than one way for law enforcement to judge your sobriety and even if you pass a breathalyzer test, you may still be charged. 

If the officer conducts a field test and believes you to be impaired or unfit to drive they can use probable cause for the arrest.

There are two terms used for this type of charge. DUI stands for Driving Under The Influence. DWI stands for Driving While Intoxicated. There are some states that consider these two separate charges and have different punishments, but most states do not make a distinction between the two terms. It is very important to know the laws within the state where you are at the time to help you decide how many drinks you want to have. 

If you are pulled over and charged with a DUI there are some immediate steps you should take to decrease the overall impact it will have on your life. Learning more about your rights and options will help you make the best decisions going forward.

You may also wonder what happens to your car if you are arrested. Here is what to do if it is impounded.

The Bottom Line

Laws against drinking and driving were not formed to deny us good times with great friends. They exist to protect others against those who are not responsible. 

Knowing how many beers can you drink is always good to know when you go out. Truthfully, it is always a little risky to drink and then get behind the wheel of a car even if you do know how many beers you can drink. There are precautions you can take to minimize those risks and information is always key to good decisions.

Hopefully, the information here will help everyone be able to do that.

If you are wondering if a previous violation, or maybe a future one, has affected your car insurance you can learn here how insurance companies calculate your premium.