There you are, standing at a party and the room starts getting a little shaky. You notice your speech is slightly slurred, and that you have a sudden craving for pizza. Sounds may come to you as if you’re in a tunnel, and you might even have some blurry vision. You might think you’re just really tired after a long week of work, but more than likely, you’re drunk.
Being drunk is legally defined by your blood alcohol content (BAC) measuring at .08. This is the same measurement that a breathalyzer will show at a traffic stop before you’re charged with drunk driving. While everyone has a different tolerance for alcohol and the ability to metabolize beer or other drinks differently, the .08 BAC limit is considered the best line between “buzzed” and drunk. While the rule of thumb for drinking and maintaining your ability to safely drive is usually one drink per hour, even that isn’t the best guideline because the number of drinks it can take for you to register a BAC level of .08 can vary.
Because of the differences in alcohol content in drinks, or even in your ability to process alcohol from one night to the next, there is no “tried and true” method of determining how many beers you can drink before you reach the .08 BAC limit. In many states, you can still be charged with drunk driving if your BAC measures below that limit, but you are clearly unable to operate a vehicle safely.
Knowing that you’ve had any amount of alcohol should keep you from driving, especially considering the risks you take and the consequences you can face. For instance, an ignition interlock device will always tell you your BAC level, but is that last beer important enough to face a judge (and the ignition interlock requirement of a drunk driving conviction) when you could just assume you’ve had one too many and find a safe ride home?
There is no perfect answer when it comes to only drinking a few beers before driving, and staying under the .08 BAC limit. Each beer is a gamble you take with your life and the lives of others. Leave the BAC calculation to a smartphone app and just pledge to drive home sober.