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Blood Alcohol Concentration Q & A

By Andrew David Easler, Esq.

BAC, or blood alcohol concentration, is measured according to the weight of alcohol consumed by blood volume. As alcohol is absorbed through the stomach walls and the small intestine, it reaches the bloodstream and is carried throughout the body until it gets to the brain.

How Quickly is Alcohol Absorbed?

Alcohol is absorbed and measurable within anywhere from thirty to seventy minutes after a person has a drink.

Is BAC Affected by Type of Alcohol Consumed?

No. A typical drink consists of five ounces of wine, a one-ounce shot of spirits, or a 12-ounce beer. You don’t get any drunker by mixing drinks, and your body doesn’t know the difference between one kind of drink and another – a drink is just a drink.

What Does Affect BAC?

BAC is affected by the number of drinks consumed, and the speed at which a person drinks.

It’s also affected by gender. Women typically don’t metabolize alcohol as quickly as men because they generally have more body fat. Fat doesn’t absorb alcohol quite as well as other cells, so more alcohol remains in a woman’s bloodstream.

Alcohol absorption is slowed if you’ve eaten, so you’ll take longer to feel the effects.

Medications don’t change your BAC, but can make you more impaired.

What are the Typical Symptoms People Will Experience at Different BAC levels?

According to the American Medical Association, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and various other sources, the following summarizes what can be expected at varying levels of BAC:

  • .01%-.05%: Relaxaton, some loss of judgment, altered mood, some visual impairment, inability to perform more than one task at the same time.
  • .05%: Impaired judgment, euphoria, lowered inhibitions, loss of small muscle control, reduced coordination, lowered reaction time, difficulty steering.
  • .08%: Inability to concentrate, significant impairment of reasoning, self-control and judgement, inability to control speed, difficulty detecting danger, impaired perception and information processing ability.
  • .10%: Slurred speech, slowed thinking, poor coordination, inability to maintain position in traffic lane or to brake effectively, marked deterioration of reaction time.
  • .15%: Significant loss of muscle control and balance, severe impairment in ability to control vehicle, possibility of vomiting.

What Should People Do if They’re Planning to Drink?

Essentially, they should stay off the road. That can mean taking a taxi, appointing a sober designated driver, or staying over at one’s host’s home.

What Does the Law Say About Drinking and Driving?

It varies from state to state. People who believe that they’re okay if they’re not over .08 are mistaken – in some states it’s lower, and even if you’re well under the legal limit, you can still be charged with DUI. This is true in Canada as well.

Even if you’re within the law, if your job requires you to drive, you could end up out of a job in either country with a reading of anything other than .00%. Employers frequently employ mandatory, regular or random drug and alcohol testing, and again, this is the case on both sides of the border. Many companies even train and employ specialists who can conduct on-site saliva or breath testing for alcohol, and urine or hair testing for drugs. In fact, the demand for qualified BAC testing technicians far exceeds the supply right now.

The information on this page may have changed since we first published it. We give great legal advice, but this page (and the rest of our site) is for informational use only and is no substitute for actual legal advice. If you’d like to establish an attorney-client relationship, reach out to us and we’ll tell you how we can make it official. Sending us an email or reading this page alone doesn’t mean we represent you.
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