When Can You Safely Drive After Drinking?

A common question involving alcohol is when can you safely drive after drinking. There is not a perfect answer to this question and it varies depending on the person and how much you’ve had to drink. Despite this, understanding how this applies to you is critical because you don’t want to drive while intoxicated.

For general reference, your BAC drops by 0.015 every hour. This means that it would take you more than five hours to sober up if you had a blood alcohol content above the legal limit of 0.08.

Trying to drive with any amount of alcohol in your system is dangerous and you can still receive a DUI in some states if it alters your driving. This is why it’s smarter to understand when it’s safe so there is no risk present at all.

To simplify this confusing question, we’ll go over what you need to know about removing alcohol from your system before driving below.

Several Factors Affect Intoxication Level

What you need to know first is that several factors affect how intoxicated you get.

Here are a few that might impact you:

  • How much you drink.
  • How quickly you drink.
  • Your gender.
  • Your hydration level and stomach contents.
  • Your height and weight.
  • If you drink carbonated beverages or energy drinks.

It’s difficult to pin down exactly how alcohol will affect you, but there are a few general rules that apply to these factors.

You’re likely to be more affected by alcohol if you drink more, drink quickly, are dehydrated, have an empty stomach, if you have a smaller body, if you’re a woman, and if you consume carbonated beverages or energy drinks.

Conversely, the opposite of this is also true. This means that your BAC will vary depending on these factors, so it’s impossible to know your exact BAC unless you use a breathalyzer.

What’s The Legal Limit For Blood Alcohol Level?

You should also be aware of what the legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) is. This is relevant because it determines what makes you legally culpable should you get pulled over.

While you can still receive a DUI under the limit, 0.08 is the limit for what will automatically get you slapped with a DUI. Your average person will usually require between four and five drinks in a short time frame to achieve this.

With this in mind, you should make sure that you’re nowhere near this if you get on the road. Your driving is significantly impaired at this level and you’ll pose a great risk to everyone else around you.

Any Intoxication Is Dangerous

A very important consideration is that any amount of intoxication makes you a dangerous driver.

While a BAC of 0.08 is the legal limit, you should still be careful about driving with any amount of intoxication. With a BAC as low as 0.02, your judgment begins to get impaired and you become more prone to making a mistake. At this level, it becomes difficult for you to avoid an accident. If you were fully sober, you would have the awareness required to prevent a crash.

Just over halfway to the legal limit at 0.05, your driving ability is significantly impaired. You’ll have a hard time seeing, lowered inhibitions, difficulty with muscle control, and poor awareness.

What this should tell you is that it isn’t safe to drive with any amount of alcohol in your system. Not only that, but you can get a DUI below the legal limit should it be visibly impacting your driving.

Don’t take the risk and wait it out!

5 drinks being clinked together in cheers

How Quickly Does Alcohol Leave Your Body?

A final, yet important idea to understand is how quickly alcohol leaves your body.

Again, this will depend on your unique circumstances. However, a general rule you can follow is that you can dispel a single drink from your body per hour if you’re a man and closer to two hours per drink if you’re a woman.

This means that if you were fully intoxicated at a BAC of 0.08, it would take you five hours to sober up enough to drive. On the other hand, you should also consider how long you’ve been drinking.

For example, while it takes roughly five drinks to get intoxicated, you might not reach a BAC of 0.08 if it took you several hours to finish your five drinks. In this scenario, you might have a BAC between 0.02 and 0.04, requiring just a few hours to sober up.

Because the effects of alcohol differ between men and women, it’s hard to say exactly how intoxicated you’ll be at the end of the night and how long you need to return to a BAC of 0. Your safest option is to use a breathalyzer and wait until that registers a zero.

Closing Thoughts

If you’ve done any drinking on a given night, be extremely cautious about driving later on. Drinking and driving is incredibly dangerous and you don’t want to hurt yourself or anyone else and wind up with a DUI.

A few tips to help you know when you can drive after drinking include understanding the factors that affect intoxication levels, knowing the legal limit of 0.08, not driving with any amount of intoxication, and learning how quickly alcohol leaves your body.

Remember that everyone processes alcohol differently and there isn’t a perfect rule to follow! One drink per hour is a highly generalized concept that might not guarantee your safety.

To ensure you never drive while intoxicated, pick up a breathalyzer and physically check before getting behind the wheel!

*collaborative post

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