Like many people, you may enjoy alcoholic beverages now and again. When you’re at home, it’s no problem. But if you have to drive home from a restaurant or a friend’s house, it can be nerve-wracking.
If you have had enough to drink to put you over the legal limit (0.08), you may be pulled over and arrested for drunk driving. And if convicted, you face a number of serious penalties.
Safe to say, it’s important to know your limits. Do you know how many drinks will put you over the legal limit?
Today, we’re discussing what the legal limit is, how it’s calculated, and how you can reasonably determine how many drinks is too many.
What is the legal limit?
Every state, including Ohio, considers a driver intoxicated when the blood alcohol content (BAC) reaches .08.
The law considers a person legally intoxicated with a BAC of .08 because impairment is present at this level. With a BAC of .08, vision is negatively affected, reaction time slows, self-control is reduced, and judgment suffers. Above this level, the impairment affects of alcohol continue to increase.
How is BAC calculated?
As you drink an alcoholic beverage, the alcohol is absorbed through the walls of the stomach and small intestine, eventually settling in the blood. It accumulates in your bloodstream until it is metabolized (or broken down) by your liver.
BAC measures the weight of alcohol in a certain volume of blood. BAC can be measured using a blood test or indirectly measured using a breathalyzer (which measures alcohol in the breath).
Generally, the more you drink, the higher your BAC (with some important exceptions).
How many drinks can you have before reaching the legal limit?
The number of drinks you can consume before reaching the legal threshold for intoxication (.08) depends on several factors. It’s very important to know and understand these factors: even if you and your spouse, friend, or family member have the same number of drinks, your BAC might vary significantly!
The following factors affect your BAC:
- Your gender: On average, women and men have different amounts of water and body fat per pound of body weight. Women typically have less water and more body fat; men have more water and less body fat. Because alcohol is not absorbed into fat cells as readily as other cells, it stays in the bloodstream longer. This means that women tend to have a higher BAC than men after the same number of drinks.
- Your weight: More weight equates to more water in your body. Water helps to dilute the alcohol in your bloodstream, thereby lowering your BAC.
- How fast you drink: The faster you drink, the more work your liver must do to metabolize the alcohol in your bloodstream. Your BAC will be higher if, for example, you consume two drinks in one hour versus over four hours.
- Your empty stomach: If you haven’t eaten recently, the alcohol you consume will be absorbed through your stomach and intestines more quickly. This means that drinking on an empty stomach will result in a BAC that is higher than if you had been drinking after a large meal.
Here are several charts that give an approximate illustration of BAC after one hour of drinking.
Note that these charts are approximations and should only be used as a guide.
You can see from the charts above how gender, weight, and drinking speed can affect BAC. A 100 pound-woman will likely have a BAC of .05 after one drink in an hour, while a 100 pound-man will likely have only a .04 BAC. If a man or woman weighs 240 pounds, on the other hand, his or her BAC may only be .02 after one drink in an hour.
Depending on your gender and weight, you may be able to consume two alcoholic drinks before reaching the legal limit (.08). However, you should note that a “drink” is not measured by what fits in a glass.
For the purposes of the charts above, a “drink” is 1.5 oz. of 80 proof liquor, a 12 oz. beer of 4.5% alcohol, or a 5 oz. glass of wine of 12% alcohol. If your “drink” has more alcohol in it than these amounts, you may be close to or reaching the legal limit after just one.
To be sure that you get home safe, it’s a good idea to get a ride home with a sober friend, call a ride sharing service or taxi, or use public transportation. If that is not an option, consider waiting after you have finished drinking until you are sober again.
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If you are facing OVI charges in Ohio, call us today. Our firm’s experienced OVI lawyers are here to answer your questions, discuss your options, and work to minimize the penalties of a drunk driving conviction.