Alcoholic beverages are served in many social situations and, as long as people know their limits and drink responsibly, Blood Alcohol Concentration Readerconsuming a cocktail or two with friends doesn't have to be particularly dangerous. Unfortunately, when people fail to recognize their limitations or get behind the wheel after imbibing, they can put themselves and others at serious risk. Understanding the effects that alcohol has on the body, including its potential for impairing driving ability, can help motorists make safer decisions.

What Is Blood Alcohol Concentration?

The law determines impairment according to a person's blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which refers to the weight of alcohol in a particular volume of blood. Alcohol quickly absorbs through the walls of the stomach and small intestine and can be measured in the blood within 30 to 70 minutes after drinking.

Several factors can affect the speed at which a person's BAC rises, including:

  • The speed of consumption. Consuming multiple alcoholic beverages in a short amount of time can cause BAC to rise faster than if the drinks were spread out over a longer period of time.
  • The number of drinks a person consumes. More alcoholic drinks equate to a higher BAC.
  • Drinking on a full or empty stomach. Drinking on a full stomach slows the absorption of alcohol, while drinking on an empty stomach allows the alcohol to absorb more quickly.

Contrary to popular belief, the type of alcohol consumed does not affect BAC. For example, one shot of distilled spirits has the same effect as one 12-ounce beer or one 5-ounce glass of wine.

How Does BAC Affect Driving Ability?

In the United States, drivers are considered legally impaired if their BAC is 0.08 percent or higher. However, motorists can begin to exhibit signs of impairment even when their BAC is lower than the legal threshold for intoxication. For example:

  • At 0.02 percent BAC, drivers may experience loss of good judgment or a decline in visual functions.
  • At 0.05 percent BAC, motorists may experience lowered alertness, reduced coordination, and have difficulty steering or responding to emergency driving situations in a timely manner.
  • At 0.08 percent BAC, drivers may have poor muscle coordination, short-term memory loss, impaired perception, and difficulty concentrating.
  • At 0.10 percent BAC, reaction time and thinking slows, and motorists may have trouble braking or staying in their lane.
  • At 0.15 percent BAC, drivers experience reduced balance and muscle control, and have trouble paying attention to the road.

Don't let a night of fun spiral out of control. Designate a sober driver or take advantage of community sober ride programs.

Were You Injured in an Accident?

If you were injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, you have legal options. Seek medical attention immediately and contact the knowledgeable legal team at Steinberg Injury Lawyers today for a free case evaluation to find out if you're entitled to compensation.


Peter Steinberg
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Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney Since 1982