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What Happens When You Drink and Drive?

DUI Lawyer in Los AngelesDid you know that nearly 30 people die in drunk-driving crashes in the U.S. every day? That’s more than one person each hour, according to data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Although drunk-driving fatalities have declined in recent years, the numbers are still staggering. In 2018 alone, 10,511 people died in drinking-and-driving-related crashes in the United States.

While most people inherently know they shouldn’t drink and drive, a lot of inhibitions can be thrown out the window after a few drinks. As people’s boundaries become broken down, they begin to make decisions they would otherwise know are dangerous. Perhaps this is partially due to an unawareness about what really happens when people are drinking. Let’s take a look at the effects of alcohol on the body and mind.

What Happens When You Drink Alcohol?

It’s incredibly difficult to tell if you’re impaired at the early stages of drinking. Although many people say they feel fine after a few drinks, the reality is, they’re usually buzzed.

Men

The average American male who weighs 200 pounds and is at least 5’9 tall will feel more relaxed and experience an elevated mood after one drink. By two drinks, his blood alcohol content (BAC) levels will be approximately 0.04, at which time he’ll have slowed speech, less inhibition, and exaggerated behaviors. His driving skills will be significantly affected.

At three drinks, his speech and memory functions will be further impaired, and he’ll have a significant loss of muscle control, particularly in the eyes. This mean, if he gets behind the wheel, he’ll have trouble focusing on the road and difficulty steering.

After four drinks, he’s found his way past the legal limit of intoxication. At this stage, he’ll find it difficult to concentrate and control the speed of his car. He may not be able to react quickly enough to road hazards and signals.

By five drinks, he’s well past being able to safely operate a moving vehicle. He may display slurred speech, slowed thinking, delayed reaction time, and an inability to coordinate his muscles.

Women

Women who are at least 5’4 tall and who weigh 170 pounds will likely experience drowsiness and reduced muscle coordination after as little as one drink. One drink in a woman of this size will equate to a BAC of about 0.03%. By two drinks, she’ll have more confidence and less inhibition while coordination difficulties settle in. She’ll likely have a shorter attention span and may exhibit slowed speech. She’ll already be at 0.05% BAC at this point.

Just one more drink—with three drinks under her belt—she’ll hit the legal limit in California (0.08% BAC). At this point, her ability to navigate through traffic and react to dangers in the road will be severely impaired, making driving a significantly dangerous endeavor. Four drinks will leave her with blurry vision, loss of balance, and an inability to control her movements correctly.

How Many Drinks Contributes to BAC Levels?

Legally, a driver’s level of impairment is measured by his or her BAC. That is to say, the amount of ethyl alcohol or ethanol that’s concentrated in the blood within a certain volume determines how impaired you are. Your BAC can be measured in several ways, including through:

  • Breath
  • Blood
  • Urine

For easy math, let’s say your blood alcohol content is 0.10%. First of all, you’d be far over the legal driving limit and should not be behind the wheel. This measurement indicates that your bloodstream contains one part of alcohol for every 1,000 parts of blood.

In California, it’s illegal to operate a vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% or higher if you’re 21. People under the age of 21 may face penalties if they’re driving with .01% or higher.

It’s easy to figure out how many drinks contribute to BAC levels when someone drinks beer because, generally speaking, one beer equals one drink. Your body can metabolize approximately one drink per hour, so let’s take a look at the other drinks that can cause you to become intoxicated:

  • 12-ounce of beer = 5% alcohol
  • 8-ounce glass of malt liquor = 7% alcohol
  • 5-ounce glass of wine = 12% alcohol
  • Shot of distilled liquor = 80 proof

If you’re facing drinking-and-driving charges in the Los Angeles area, you’ll want an experienced DUI attorney on your side. Reach out to Jon Artz, attorney at law, to schedule your free initial consultation today!

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