How many drinks is too many?
If you don’t know your limits, you might end up inadvertently getting behind the wheel while intoxicated. The penalties for drunk driving in Ohio are steep—making this something you want to avoid at all costs.
That said, how do you tell if you’re over the legal limit (.08 BAC, or blood alcohol content)? What are the signs of intoxication? And how many drinks can you safely have?
Today, we’re going to answer these questions (and more). Keep reading to learn how to protect yourself from the costs and consequences of an OVI conviction.
How to Tell If Your BAC Is Over the Limit
Unless you’re equipped with an at-home breathalyzer at all times, you’ll have to rely on behavioral signs and drink counting to “guess-timate” your BAC.
There are a number of signs that will tell you that you’re no longer okay to drive. These signs range from extremely subtle (when you’re feeling just a bit tipsy) to overt (when you’re feeling completely intoxicated). Here are a few of the signs, progressing from tipsy to intoxicated:
- Feeling more confident and chatty
- Slower reaction time
- Lowered inhibitions
- Flushed face
- Emotionally volatile (aka easily excited, angered, or saddened)
- Bloodshot or glassy eyes
- Loss of coordination
- Slurred speech
- Trouble remembering things
- Blurry vision
- Fatigue or drowsiness
- Difficulty standing or walking
- Emotional outbursts
- Unable to feel pain
- Passed out or unable to move
If you need to drive later and are feeling the first few signs of intoxication (chattiness, flushed face, delayed reactions, etc.), that is a good sign that you should stop drinking and give yourself time to sober up. Continuing to drink will cause you to be further impaired and unable to drive legally.
Of course, we all know that people who are having difficulty walking, confusion, and drowsiness as a result of drinking shouldn’t drive. But should the confident, chatty ones also think twice?
Drink Counting and the Science of BAC
When determining if it’s safe to drive, you can’t rely on behavior alone. That’s because you could be over the limit even if you feel “fine” to drive. This is often the case for people who regularly have a drink. As they build up their tolerance to alcohol, they exhibit fewer outward signs of intoxication. (It might take them five drinks to start slurring their words instead of three drinks, for example.) However, that doesn’t mean that their BAC is any lower, or that it is any safer (or legal) for them to drive.
For this reason, it’s also important to count your drinks per hour to determine your approximate BAC.
Why per hour? Simply put, the body can generally only process about one drink per hour. (One “drink” is considered to be 1.5 oz. of 80 proof liquor (40%), a 12 oz. beer (4.5%), or 5 oz. of wine (12%).)
When you drink, the alcohol consumed is absorbed by your stomach and small intestines. From there, the alcohol is carried by blood vessels into the bloodstream. Acting as a “filter” for the blood, the liver then metabolizes the alcohol. If you consume more than one standard drink an hour, the liver gets “overloaded” and isn’t able to metabolize all of the alcohol. As a result, it accumulates in your bloodstream—leading to a higher and higher BAC.
That said, there are other factors that influence how the liver metabolizes alcohol:
- Weight: People of lower weights will have a higher BAC after one standard drink than people of higher weights.
- Medication: Certain medications (such as anti-depressants) may interact with with alcohol to increase the intoxicating effects of alcohol or cause negative side effects.
- Food: Drinking on a full stomach will cause alcohol to be more slowly absorbed by the stomach and small intestines, leading to a lower BAC than drinking the same amount on an empty stomach.
Finally, it’s important to note that men and women metabolize alcohol differently. Women are generally smaller than men, with less body water and a higher percentage of body fat. As a result, they metabolize alcohol more slowly and have a higher BAC than men after drinking the same amount of alcohol.
As a general rule of thumb, women should be able to drink no more than two drinks per hour to stay under the legal limit. Men should be able to drink three. (You can see the full charts in a previous blog post.) If you consume more than this, you can expect your BAC to be over the legal limit.
Every hour after you’ve stopped drinking (as your liver metabolizes the alcohol), you can subtract .015 from your estimated BAC. As an example, if you are a 180-lb. man who has five drinks in one hour, your BAC is an estimated .11—over the legal limit. You would likely need to wait three hours for your BAC to lower below the legal limit.
Call Us for OVI Help
If you or a loved one are accused of driving under the influence, we are here to help. Contact Casper & Casper to speak with an experienced, knowledgeable OVI lawyer in Cincinnati, OH about your case.