We’ve all seen the charts that show how many drinks a person of a specific gender and weight needs to consume to reach various blood alcohol content (BAC) levels. Those charts are approximations at best. However, too many people use them to determine when they’ve had enough.
Even newly minted Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, whose self-professed fondness for beer became a focus of his recent Senate confirmation hearing, seemed to place his faith in them. When asked “What do you consider too many beers?” at one point, he answered, “You know — whatever the chart says.”
People know that if they’re pulled over for suspected drunk driving and their Breathalyzer result shows a BAC of .08 percent or more, they could be charged with DUI. However, just what does that reading mean, and what effects how you get to it?
Your BAC reflects the amount of alcohol in your blood at the time the test is administered. A .08 reading would seem to indicate that for each 10,000 milligrams (mg) of blood, 8 mg of alcohol is present.
How you get to that level (or any BAC level) depends on how your body metabolizes alcohol. This is varies based on things like:
- Weight: Heavier people have more water in their body, which dilutes alcohol
- Gender: Women have less water in their body than men. They also have fewer stomach enzymes to break down the alcohol.
- Age: Older people don’t process alcohol as efficiently as younger people.
- Body type: Muscle is better at absorbing alcohol than fat, so if your weight is in muscle, you can likely absorb alcohol faster than a less muscular person of the same weight.
Other factors play a role as well. These include whether you consume alcohol with food or on an empty stomach and how quickly you consume it. Of course, many types of drugs (illegal, prescription and even over-the-counter meds) can significantly impact how your body reacts to alcohol.
If you’ve had anything to drink, it’s always wise to leave the driving to someone else. No chart will tell you what your BAC is. Even Breathalyzers can be wrong if they aren’t calibrated correctly or the officer using the tool isn’t properly trained or makes a mistake. External factors can impact the reading as well. Experienced Maryland DUI attorneys can work to ensure that there aren’t issues with any evidence used against you.