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How Safe is Drinking and Driving Below the Legal Limit?

In most States, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at which a person is considered officially impaired is .08%. But is below .08% really safe?

In truth, you’re impaired a long time before the law says you are.

How much can you drink before you’re considered legally impaired? Not many men would be considered impaired if they had 2 beers in an hour. For a 140-pound man to be at the legal limit, he would have to drink 3 beers over 1 ½ hours. If he weighed 180 pounds, he would have to consume 4 beers over a period of 2 hours.  A man who drinks 6 beers over 3 hours would be above .08, as long as he weighs less than 260 pounds.

For a woman who weighs 120 pounds or less, just 2 beers in an hour would be the equivalent of .08 or .09.

Drinking that amount of alcohol is very common. How many people do you know who drink at all and go to a bar or party and drink less? Not many.  So, basically, unless a man or woman is the type to go out with friends for a couple of hours and only have 2 beers, then there’s a good chance they’re impaired when they leave.

What is the effect of alcohol at that .08 level? According to the Tennessee Association of Alcohol, Drug & other Addiction Services website, the person’s sight and hearing is impaired considerably, it’s difficult for them to detect danger, and they’re starting to lose their balance.

You would think that drinking and driving would be illegal long before someone got to that stage.

What happens with a lower than .08 BAC?

  • From .01 to .03 there is a mild lift in feeling, and there is some loss in judgment.
  • Between .04 – .06, most people feel high and must decide whether to continue drinking.  They may get louder and have some loss of small muscle control, like focusing their eyes.

Again, you would think that even ‘some loss in judgment’ or a ‘loss of small muscle control’ or ‘having trouble focusing’ your eyes would be enough to keep someone out of the driver’s seat.

Nevertheless, you’re still legal until everything is much worse.

In 2012, 85 percent (9,678) of the 11,415 drivers with a BAC of .01 (which means they drank something) or higher who were involved in fatal crashes had BAC levels at or above .08. That’s an indication of how really out of control they are at that level.

But people who drink a lot are also risking their life even without driving. Other effects of drinking include:

  • high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes
  • stomach ulcers, irritable colon, and cirrhosis of the liver
  • damage to the brain, pancreas, and kidneys
  • impotence and infertility
  • birth defects and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which causes mental retardation, small head size, low birth weight, and limb abnormalities. Children born with FAS never get to the point of being able to care for themselves, even as adults, and live a relatively short life.

Many people are not aware of the problems drinking can create. Or they think it won’t happen to them, or they that won’t drink that much. But alcohol, like drugs, is addictive. And, really, no one really knows who’s going to turn out to be a heavy drinker and who isn’t.

Wouldn’t zero tolerance be a better policy? And a better law?

If it’s too late for that, and your kids, spouse or other family members and friends are already drinking, get them the addiction help they need. Call us at 855-889-0555 to find the right alcohol rehab for your situation.



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