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Driving can be impaired long before you're at the wheel

No amount of alcohol is going to improve your driving ability. That's why Maryland law states, "A person may not drive or attempt to drive any vehicle while under the influence of alcohol."

If a police officer suspects that you've been driving under the influence, you can be arrested regardless of your blood alcohol content (BAC) is. If your BAC is .08 or above (.02 or more if you're under 21), you can be arrested on that evidence alone, even if you're not exhibiting any other signs of impairment.

The effects of alcohol can show up long before someone reaches the legal maximum BAC for adult drivers. For example, at .05 BAC, people may have some memory and reasoning impairment. They may be less cautious. These changes may cause a driver to do unsafe things that can attract the attention of police.

By the time people get into the .08 to .09 zone, which is just over the legal limit, their motor skills can begin to be impaired. So can their judgment, hearing and sight. Further, people at this BAC level often think that they're functioning at a higher level than they are. Again, these changes can be dangerous if you're behind the wheel.

Things only get worse as a person's BAC climbs. Unfortunately, too many people still make the decision to drive. In fact, a person may be physically capable of driving when he or she is in what's known as a "blackout." Blackouts can occur when someone has reached the .14 to .17 BAC range.

A blackout isn't the same as passing out, although that may well happen eventually. A blackout is a period of time that a person later can't recall, even though he or she may have been engaged in a number of activities -- including driving.

Rather than try to determine for yourself whether you've had too much to drink to drive (and if you have to ask, you probably have), your best course of action is not to take a chance. Call an Uber, get a ride with someone who hasn't been drinking at all or stay where you are and call someone to come and get you. A DUI, no matter what the level of alcohol in your system, can have serious consequences for your future.

Source: Officer.com, "Blood Alcohol Levels and Blackouts," Pamela Kulbarsh, accessed June 01, 2018

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