In all 50 states, it’s against the law to drink and drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent. Under Section 23152(b) of the California Vehicle Code it says, “It is unlawful for a person who has 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle.” In other words, if you’re caught driving with .08 percent or more BAC, you commit the offense of driving under the influence (DUI) – but you knew that.
What about driving under the influence with a BAC that’s less than .08 percent, does that ensure you’ll escape a DUI? Not so fast. Under Section 23152(a) of the Vehicle Code it says, “It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle.” This means that you can be arrested and convicted of DUI, even if your BAC is less than .08 percent.
How Many Drinks to Reach .08% BAC?
A lot of people think that as long as their BAC is below .08 percent, they can’t be convicted of DUI; this is a fallacy. In an era where a driver can be convicted of DUI with less than .08 percent BAC, we need to stop worrying about how many drinks it takes to reach .08 percent BAC. This is because drinking and driving always introduces an element of risk.
If your BAC is .08 percent or higher, you’re considered impaired under Sec. 23152(b) of the Vehicle Code, and you’re certain to be arrested for DUI. However, we must remember that under Sec. 23152(a) of the Vehicle Code, you can be charged with DUI if you have any measurable alcohol in your system.
If the arresting officer says that you appear “legally impaired,” or if you’re under the combined influence of alcohol and prescription drugs or another controlled substance, or if there is a child in your car, you can face DUI charges, even if you’re below the .08 percent legal limit. Now, let’s take a look at the various factors that affect BAC:
- Your age – As you get older, you become more sensitive to alcohol.
- Your gender – Women are more sensitive to alcohol than men due to biological reasons.
- Strength of drink – The stronger the drink, the higher the BAC.
- Your body type – The more body fat you have, the less alcohol will affect you.
- Rate of consumption – If you drink alcohol fast, your BAC will rise accordingly.
- Your medications – Certain medications greatly intensify the effects of alcohol.
- Food – If you eat before drinking, it will slow down the absorption of alcohol. In contrast, drinking on an empty stomach will lead to a higher BAC than if you had eaten a full meal before imbibing.
- Carbonated drinks – When you mix alcohol with soda or if you drink champagne or sparkling wine, they speed up the absorption of alcohol, leading to a higher BAC in a shorter period of time.
So, is it safe to have a couple of drinks and drive? In our opinion, it’s not worth the risk. You’re a lot better off calling a taxi, Uber or Lyft – they’re far cheaper than a DUI!