Understanding Blood Alcohol Content: Zero Tolerance for Drunk Driving

Whether you drink or not, getting a better understanding of blood alcohol content (BAC) can be beneficial for you, as many people have never really given much thought to the topic. BAC is simply the concentration of alcohol that is in your blood. When you drink, that alcohol goes right into your bloodstream and ends up traveling to the brain, causing various cognitive and behavioral changes.

One very important reason people should get familiar with their BAC is because there are so many drunk driving accidents related to having a high BAC. In fact, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that one person dies every 45 minutes due to an automobile accident in which someone was intoxicated. It's a statistic that law enforcement officials are working hard on decreasing by cracking down on drunk or buzzed drivers.

Your BAC level is measured as mass per volume. This means that if you have a BAC of 0.04%, you have 0.04 grams per 100 grams of your blood. It might sound a bit complicated, but there are some great charts and online BAC calculators that help you understand this better.

What is a typical drink?

A half ounce of alcohol equals one drink. So this means that for each shot, 5 oz. glass of wine, or 12 oz. beer one drinks, you are getting .54 ounces of alcohol.

What kinds of things affect a BAC?

There are various factors that can change your BAC, including how many drinks you have in one sitting, how fast you drink them, whether you are a male or female, your weight, tolerance, and whether you've eaten anything or not. It's important to know the varying factors. For example, if you're a female and weigh 120 pounds and you hardly ever drink, drinking 2 drinks in 2 hours may put your BAC above the legal limit for driving. On the other hand, if you're a woman weighing 170 pounds and you drink frequently, 2 drinks in 2 hours will probably not put your BAC over the limit.

How do you know when you're too buzzed or drunk to drive?

It's not an easy call. You may feel like you're fine to drive, yet your BAC could be over the legal driving limit. Alcohol certainly affects people's judgment, so going with what you "feel" is not wise. If you're BAC is between .08 and .10, you have more than 11 times greater chance of having an automobile accident if you're a woman and if you're a young man, 52 greater chance. That's huge!

What BAC is considered illegal?

The states enforce a law that says if your BAC is .08 or higher, you're driving impaired and can be arrested for driving under the influence. Police officers can also arrest you if you're under .08 if you're displaying characteristics that make you an unsafe driver. Some call it buzzed driving or perhaps people mix alcohol with pills or marijuana. Here is an online BAC calculator you can play around with to get an idea of what your blood alcohol would be in various drinking scenarios.

What should you do?

If you're planning on drinking while you're out, don't plan on driving at all. You can have a designated driver, call a taxi or Uber, or stay overnight wherever it is you're drinking.

Get a breathalyzer

There are some breathalyzers out there you can purchase to be sure that you are not over the legal drinking limit when you're out and about. Here is one link for a breathalyzer that uses your smartphone screen to indicate its results. If you're going to drink, drink responsibly.


Dominica Applegate has a BS in Psychology, an MA in Counseling and has worked in the mental health field for 12 years before launching her own business as a writer. Specializing in addictions, relationships, codependency, fitness and health, Dominica's work is ultimately about helping people remove blocks that keep them stuck, because everyone can really create a life that they love.

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