This is a common question, but determining how many drinks you can have depends on the circumstances. Your gender, body weight, how fast you’re drinking and the type of alcoholic drink consumed, as well as whether you’ve eaten any food, all factor in.
In today’s post, we share the basics of the legal limits for drunk driving, and how you might be able to glean some idea of your personal drinking limits before you’re considered driving under the influence.
Blood Alcohol Content Basics
The legal blood alcohol content (BAC) for drunk driving is 0.08% in Colorado and all other states. If you’re caught driving with a BAC of 0.08% or more, you ought to be prepared to call your Denver DUI defense attorney because chances are good you will be arrested.
Further, Colorado is a zero-tolerance state. That means zero drinks is your maximum if you’re under the age of 21. The legal limit is 0.02%, the minimum detection threshold.
So, what exactly happens as you consume alcohol? Here are the typical bodily effects one can expect at various BAC levels:
0.02%: This is the legal limit for underage drivers. If you’re a light to moderate drinker, you’ll begin to feel some effect.
0.04%: At this stage, many have a sense of being relaxed, and their inhibitions tend to wane.
0.06%: Making decisions is probably not a good idea at this point, as your judgment is not becoming impaired
0.08%: This is the legal intoxication limit, and if you’re caught driving with a BAC over 0.08%, you’ll be arrested and charged. Your muscle coordination and driving skills will be impaired.
0.1%: Here, your reflexes are deteriorating, lengthening reaction times. Driving a car at this point is absolutely no longer safe for anyone.
0.12%: Unless you are a regular drinker, and have built a tolerance for alcohol, about this time, you may experience nausea and may vomit.
0.15%: A person’s balance becomes markedly impaired. Have you ever heard the term “the spins”? This is the stage where that happens.
0.15-0.25%: Somewhere in this range, blackouts begin. More commonly, this is referred to as “passing out.”
0.3%: At this level, you have likely reached the point of a medical emergency. Most people will lose consciousness.
0.4%: There are only rare cases when a person wouldn’t lose consciousness at this BAC level, and some die.
0.45%: Once you reach a BAC of 0.45%, your breathing stops and a fatal alcohol overdose is occurring.
So we know these effects begin in as little as 15 minutes after taking the first drink. But exactly how many drinks before you are over your limit, exactly?
How Many Drinks Before You’re Over the Limit?
Although it’s hard to predict exactly how many drinks will put you over the limit, a general rule of thumb is that two drinks consumed within an hour will most likely land you over the line.
Three drinks, one right after another, will definitely place you over the limit regardless of your weight and other determinants.
For practical purposes, “one drink” means a 12-ounce beer, a 4-ounce glass of wine, or one ounce of hard liquor. Keep in mind, however, that strengths vary, so this is only an approximation.
DIY Blood Alcohol Content Testing
If you don’t want to risk it, there are a few ways to estimate or measure your BAC yourself. These methods can give you at least some idea of where you stand.
There are a number of online calculators that you can use to estimate your BAC. These calculators allow you to plug in your weight, amount of alcohol consumed, and the time you’ve been drinking to give you a BAC approximation.
Drunk Driving Prevention Apps
Yep, there’s an app for that. There are many available apps to help prevent drunk driving.
Some apps, such as Drink Tracker and ENDUI, estimate your BAC. The drawback of these apps is that to get an accurate estimate, you should enter each drink as you consume it.
At times, you end up drinking with friends when you weren’t planning to. Enter “Have a Plan” and “Safer Ride” — two apps which allow you to enter an emergency contact list for when you’re too drunk to drive.
Ride-sharing apps such as Uber and Lyft, always a great option. But what about your car? StearClear is a booking app that connects you with a professional driver who can drive you and your car home.
There are a number of hand-held breathalyzers on the market at a variety of price points. These devices provide an accurate estimate of your BAC, but it’s important to note that breathalyzers aren’t always 100% accurate. Give yourself a margin of error just to be on the safe side.
If you’re drinking and plan to drive home, it’s generally best to limit yourself to 1-2 drinks and to stop drinking for a while before heading out. Always err on the side of caution. Better safe than face a Colorado DUI.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.