The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has determined the legal alcohol intoxication level as anything exceeding 0.08. A breathalyzer test will determine your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). The legal limit in all states in the United States is a number below .08.
This is 80 mg per deciliter and is sometimes stated as 80 mg% or .08 BAC.
Alcohol can be measured in the blood within minutes of consumption due to rapid absorption. Food in the stomach helps to slow absorption. In fact, a person is more likely to fail a breathalyzer test if they have not eaten.
A common question is: “How many drinks can I drink before I reach the .08 level?” The answer is: “The number of drinks varies by individual.” In some cases, it may take only one drink to put a person into the “Driving Under the Influence” (DUI) category.
Some people don’t need much alcohol at all to be considered legally drunk. Weight, gender and body fat percentage, plus alcohol tolerance, all factor into the equation. So, if you are concerned about how many drinks you can have before driving, the best answer is “zero” – do not drink and drive. Whether or not you consider yourself “drunk,” the law considers you to be an offender if your BAC is above .08%.
A level of 0.05 is significantly below the legal intoxication level of 0.08, but can slow reaction time and result in sedation. As blood alcohol levels increase, common effects include:
0.08 – Legal intoxication with increased impairment in thinking and reaction time
0.10 – Poor coordination, slowed thinking and speech impairment
0.20 – Trouble walking, nausea, vomiting
0.30 – Memory loss, cool body temperature, may lose consciousness (pass out)
0.40 – Coma, trouble breathing and possible death
0.50 – Death
The rate of metabolism of alcohol in the body also varies but an estimate follows:
A 150 pound woman who consumes one “standard” drink over one hour will attain a BAC of 0.03. After two hours, her BAC will be 0.00. One “standard” drink consists of 12 ounces of beer, or a 5% alcohol cooler (5 ounces of 12% alcohol wine), or 1.5 ounces of spirits such as 40% vodka or whiskey.
If a woman weighs 100 pounds and consumes two standard drinks in one hour, her BAC will approximate 0.08, producing legal intoxication.
Alcohol quickly lowers inhibitions and impairs thinking. About 50% of Montana motor vehicle fatalities are alcohol related. These statistics support a zero tolerance for drunk driving and encourage designated sober drivers in all situations.
Betty and Bev