You’re going out for a night on the town, and you’ve offered to drive. You plan on being responsible, only having a couple of drinks before you drive home. Although you may feel like you’re fine to drive, alcohol affects people in different ways. Before you get behind the wheel, it is important to know the factors that affect BAC so that you don’t risk driving under the influence.
BAC, or Blood Alcohol Content, is the concentration of alcohol in your blood, usually calculated as a percentage. There are laws regarding maximum BAC for driving. In Massachusetts, the maximum BAC for a driver ages 21 or older is 0.08%. The usual rule of thumb is one drink (12 ounce beer, 4 ounce glass of wine, 1 ounce shot of 80-proof liquor) per hour to remain under the legal limit, but other variables can affect your BAC.
1. Rate of Consumption
The faster you consume alcohol, the more that it builds up in your blood stream. If you are consuming more than one drink an hour, that buildup will cause your BAC to rise.
2. Drink Strength
Different types of liquor have different percentages of alcohol. Distilled liquor like whiskey, vodka, gin, rum, and tequila have a higher percentage of alcohol than beer and wine. You can tell the strength of the drink by its proof. Many distilled liquors are 80 proof, which means that they are 40% alcohol, though some have higher proofs. The higher the proof or percentage of alcohol, the higher your BAC will be when you drink it.
The more you weigh, the more water your body tends to have. The water can dilute the alcohol, causing you to need more drinks to feel the same buzz as your smaller friends, and vice versa. Also, alcohol affects your BAC more depending on your body fat. Fat has a hard time breaking down alcohol, which leaves it in your blood stream longer.
Women tend to have a higher BAC than men for a couple of reasons. Usually, women have a higher percentage of body fat and a lower amount of stomach enzymes that breaks down alcohol. Along with that fact is the one that on average, women tend to be smaller than men.
As you begin to age, your body stores more fat and your stomach enzymes are less active than they used to be. This causes the body to absorb less of the alcohol. This is why you feel the effects of alcohol quicker the further you get away from 21.
Many medications can increase the effects of alcohol. They can negatively impact your body, endangering your health. Alcohol mixed with cold or allergy medicine can increase drowsiness, making it even more unsafe to drive. Many prescription medications can intensify the effects of alcohol as well. Alcohol mixed with acetaminophen can harm your liver. It is best to check your prescription labels or speak with your doctor to see if it’s safe to consume alcohol while you’re taking medication.
Consuming food before drinking can slow the absorption of alcohol in your blood stream. Eating a meal will cause the alcohol to stay in your stomach for a longer period of time, which slows the rate at which it’s absorbed. Drinking on an empty stomach will cause you to have a higher BAC because the stomach can absorb the alcohol more quickly.
What do gin and tonic, rum and Coke, and champagne all have in common? They are carbonated beverages. Many sparkling wines, champagnes, sodas, and tonic water mixers are carbonated. Carbonation may increase the rate at which alcohol passes through the stomach, which causes BAC to increase. So your rum and Coke might raise your BAC faster than a vodka and cranberry.
Many people don’t understand the way alcohol in processed in body. Therefore, they may get behind the wheel when they’re over the legal limit and don’t even realize it.
If you underestimated the effects of these factors on your BAC, and were pulled over for a DUI, make sure to contact the lawyers at Revelli & Luzzo, P.C., located in Worcester, MA. We can make sure you get the right representation.