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How much alcohol can you drink and still drive?

Everyone knows not to drink and drive, and yet it still happens. This may be because there is confusion over what counts as drinking. How much alcohol is too much to get behind the wheel?

There is no hard and fast answer to that, though the ideal would be not to drink at all before driving. However, what amount of alcohol may be safe to consume depends on a variety of factors.

Basic laws about drunk driving

The legal limit in every U.S. state is a BAC of 0.08 percent. However, the police can charge you for operating a vehicle impaired even if you are under that percentage. The bottom line is if alcohol has affected your ability to drive safely, you have drunk enough to qualify for an OVI no matter the numerical results from a chemical test.

Factors that affect intoxication

Because you can face charges even being under the legal limit, it is important to understand how your body metabolizes alcohol. The following factors play a role:

  • Gender: Typically, women become intoxicated faster than men because they tend to be smaller, have less body water and have less ADH enzyme activity to break down alcohol in the stomach.
  • Size: The greater your lean mass, the lower your BAC will be in comparison to a smaller person who had the same amount to drink. This is due to more body water to dilute the alcohol and faster metabolism from a larger liver.
  • Hydration: As you can see, how much water is in your body makes a big difference. Staying hydrated can keep your BAC lower.
  • Food: Eating causes the digestion of alcohol to slow down, particularly eating fatty foods. Try not to drink on an empty stomach.
  • Medication: Alcohol can cause side effects of medication to worsen, making you more impaired than you would be if you were not taking medicine.
  • Health: Your general health also affects metabolism rate. Not only can illness slow it down, but also general fatigue and stress.

Keep these things in mind next time you drink to help you make the decision of whether you should drive afterward. In any case, it is always best to never even think about getting behind the wheel if you have even had a single beer or mixed drink.

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