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Zag_grad2010's avatar

How many drinks is too many before driving?

Asked by Zag_grad2010 (203 points ) September 2nd, 2010

I was wondering how much you can legally drink and then drive. Obviously having a DD is best, but there are many times when you just want to meet a friend or date for drinks after work. I have heard the rule of thumb is that it takes the body a hour to digest one drink. But what constitutes one drink? Surely a Coors light that has like 4 percent alcohol isn’t the same as having a double scotch. Those are two extreme examples, but some clarity would help. I don’t want to endanger society or get caught and get a DUI.

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27 Answers

Seek's avatar

One drink, one hour.

A drink is (as a rule of thumb – your beverage and/or metabolism may vary) 4 oz. of wine, 12 oz. of beer, 1 oz. of liquor.

Austinlad's avatar

The numbers that are being thrown out on this thread are relative. It depends on your personal size, weight, tolerance for alcohol, and other factors. I wasn’t being flip when I said one was too many. I really believe, and pardon the cliche, driving and driving are a no-no combo.

downtide's avatar

In the UK, one light beer (4% abv) will put most people over the legal limit to drive. The only truly safe answer is zero.

WestRiverrat's avatar

A rough guideline is

12 oz of beer = 4 oz of wine = 1 to 1.5 oz of spirits.

Of course this can vary widely depending on the alcohol content of the specific drink you are having.

Our rule of thumb is the first drink takes about 1 hour to process out of your system. Second and each succeeding drink add 30 an extra 30 minutes to the last total.

Example

1 drink = 1 hour
2 drinks = 2 hours 30 minutes
3 drinks = 4 hours

That is the time from finishing your last drink until you are safe to drive.

HungryGuy's avatar

I agree with downtide. Don’t drink at all if you need to drive. When you decide how many is a “safe” number of drinks, you are making a decision for other people for their safety that they have no say in.

Flavio's avatar

The safest is not to drive when you drink. Evidence shows that we are generally very bad at telling when we are “safe” to drive.

MissAnthrope's avatar

As @Seek_Kolinahr & @WestRiverrat said, that is the general rule of thumb. However, there are a bunch of factors that come into play that are physiological and completely different for each person. For example, given my body mass, I should be able to drink like a guy. HA! I’ve known petite little women who can out-drink me by miles. It would be embarrassing, but I do appreciate the financial benefit of being a cheap date.

The only way to know is to use a breathalyzer. Check out this experiment. I was intrigued because I’d always kind of felt the same way as he does, that the only way to know what ‘the limit’ is to have some sort of a gauge so that you know what ‘too many’ feels like. Anyway, you’ll see in his experiment how variable BAC is.

Kraigmo's avatar

California mails this chart to every driver:

http://test-www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/hdbk/pgs72duichart.htm

MissAnthrope's avatar

No doubt, the chart is a good outline, but it is flawed for the reasons I stated above. A good place to start to give you an idea, though. :)

MoxieGal's avatar

Side Note: If a police officer pulls you over and asks “So, have you been drinking tonight?” – You reply, “Why no sir.”

rebbel's avatar

“How many drinks is too many before driving?”
If you answer the cop that stops you: “What seems to be the Officer, problem?”

Mat74UK's avatar

@downtide – Totally Agreed!

Blackberry's avatar

@rebbel LOL!

One shot of petron?

iamthemob's avatar

As stated, the average drink is metabolized by the average person in one hour. Unfortunately, this changes by body weight and height. Also, one cocktail may be 1½, 2 or 3 drinks even (e.g., a martini is on average 2.5 drinks in this context). Most people take the 1/1 ratio as absolute when considering if they are ready to drive.

So there’s no answer. Common sense is the only thing. If you feel tipsy, you’re not ready to drive. If you feel sober, I would wait an hour more. If there’s any small doubt, take a cab. Although if you feel fine there’s a slim chance you might be wrong, the negative consequences of that chance are major.

GeorgeGee's avatar

The legal definition varies from place to place. In Japan, you can’t have ANY drinks before driving. The more meaningful answer is not a number but the threshold within which you can safely drive. If you are drunk on half a drink, half a drink is too much. On the other hand if you’ve had 12 drinks and still feel you can drive safely, YOU’RE WRONG, and you need to check in to Alcoholics Anonymous.

lilikoi's avatar

I say use your common sense.

If you know you are ok to drive fine, if not don’t. Know your body and your limits.

In addition to the factors mentioned above, it also depends on alcohol content. Obviously the watered down piss beer Budweiser people put on tap at some bars does not have the same alcohol content as a shot of Patron.

And finally, passengers absolutely have control over whether they want to put themselves in “danger” or not – it is their decision whether or not to get in the car with you. You can’t hold other adults responsible for your bad lapse in judgment. Kids are a different story.

the100thmonkey's avatar

May I venture to suggest that one drink is too much?

If you are involved in an accident without drinking, at least you know that there was one fewer contributing factor.

jerv's avatar

The legal limit in most of the US for drivers age 21+ is around one drink per hour for the average person… though not all of us are average.

The amount that will actually impair one’s driving, however, is a totally different ball of wax. I’ve seen people that could barely stand after half a bottle of light beer, and others that could function just fine even though they habitually got drunk enough to blow a BAC of .10 after eight hours of sleep.
Given that different types of alcohol “hit” differently, and people’s metabolisms vary considerably, plus the fact that some people can’t drive even sober, I would have to say that your best bet is to only drink when you know you won’t be driving anywhere.
Oh, and for those of you who have a few drinks and think you’re okay to drive, ask for a second opinion from a sober person. My rule of thumb is that if there is doubt then you’re probably too drunk to drive, and if there is no doubt then you are definitely better off in the passenger’s seat. I’ve pulled a lot of stupid shit in my younger days, but after being in the back seat of a car that flipped because the drunk in the driver’s seat wanted to hear the tires squeal around one more corner, I draw the line at DUI.

Sure, I’ve inconvenienced a few people by asking for rides or crashing on their couch, but I feel that those are both better than the alternatives; license suspension, prison time (possibly for vehicular manslaughter on top of the DUI), crippling, and/or death.

stardust's avatar

I’m with the no crowd on drinking and driving. It’s really not worth it.

Austinlad's avatar

I agree with @the100thmonkey about one drink being too much. No wait, @the100thmonkey agrees with me. Mine was the first post to say it. ;-)

daytonamisticrip's avatar

My personal opinion is 0.
In reality it depends how much you can handle and how much you weight, oh and how mint fresh you gum is.

Harold's avatar

We have a slogan in Australia- “If you drink and drive you’re a bloody idiot”. Any amount of alcohol impairs your judgment to some extent, so if you want to drive and be safe, leave it alone.

Zag_grad2010's avatar

Well some of the responses actually gave me some good advice. Thank you!
HOWEVER, to all the people who said you shouldn’t drink anything if you want to drive- are you serious? Why would the law say a person can have a BAC of .07 and still legally drive? If the government wanted no one to drink and drive then a BAC of .01 would be illegal for everyone, not just kids under 21. Since this is not the case clearly the government has given people over 21 the discretion to enjoy alcoholic beverages in moderation and then drive. I am not saying I want to go to a bar and get plastered, and then drive home. Like any sociable person I find myself in situations when I want to go for some drinks after work or to meet up with some friends at a bar. Knowing your limit and moderation is key. Taking a cab home every time I went to a bar would be really expensive since I live in Orange County and everything is spread out.

MissAnthrope's avatar

@Zag_grad2010 – The idea is that the only time to be certain you’re okay, to be 100% safe, is to have a DD or not have any drinks at all. Cabs may be expensive, but you should take a look at the costs of a DUI in California and you’ll get what we mean.. If caught and charged, at the very least, you’ll lose your license for 6 months, plus a fine, plus at least 96 hours in jail.

The people saying that the safe route is no drinks at all are very pragmatic and I agree with their point, which is that alcohol affects people in different ways and there is no way to be certain you are under the BAC limit unless: a) you purchase a very good breathalyzer or b) don’t drink at all.

Seek's avatar

@Zag_grad2010 They do that so you will drink and drive, and they can get the $10,000 plus in fines and fees when you blow over. (and that’s for a first-time offense in Florida)

mollysmithee's avatar

It depends on a number of things, like gender, etc that can affect how drunk you may become on a certain amount of alcohol. This article explains some of the factors that contribute to blood alcohol levels: http://www.dwiattorneyhouston.com/articles/blood-alcohol-concentration/

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