Can You Really Drive with a Blood Alcohol Level of .4? Someone in New York State Sure Did.

A blood alcohol level of .4 is insanely dangerousFor many drivers, especially moderate or non-drinkers, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) numbers on warning signs are a bit mysterious. What is .08 anyway? And how many drinks is that? And if you are over the limit by a factor of five, could you still drive?

The answer to the last question is, “Someone tried to.” A man in Sullivan County, New York was arrested after driving his car into a ditch. His BAC was .4, exactly 500 percent of the legal limit.

Simply put, alcohol dissolves pretty evenly in one’s blood. Very quickly after you take a drink, alcohol enters your bloodstream. One bottle of beer will raise one’s BAC to about .02 in under an hour. Obviously other factors are involved: your weight, age, sex, and individual tolerance for alcohol. But generally speaking, four beers and you’ll eventually hurdle the .08 limit, and which judgment, vision, hearing, and coordination are generally too compromised for safe driving.

How Blood Alcohol Level Affects Driving Ability

  • .02: Relaxation, loss of inhibition.
  • .05: Mild euphoria, more intense emotion, and decreased caution (drivers take note!)
  • .08: Vision, reaction time, hearing, coordination, and judgment are all weakened. You are legally drunk and not allowed by law to drive
  • .15: Drunkenness obvious to anyone. Words are slurred, walking is difficult. This is your comic drunk.
  • .2: Confusion, nausea, and considerable difficulty walking or standing.
  • .3: Tendency to fall into a daze or stupor. This is the drunk you have to drag to their feet and help out the door.
  • .4: Lethal drunkenness. This person belongs in a hospital in case of respiratory failure or coma.

So, how did a person with an .4 level manage to get into a car and drive away? Most people couldn’t. But the fact remains that one did, and the question to ask is, “Who let this person drive?” At a blood alcohol level like that, a person is incapable of making a responsible decision.

As it happens, the driver in this case did not have a license. It’s fairly easy to conclude that drinking was at the root of the suspension. In that case, an ignition interlock, which prevents one from driving until a breath test has been passed, would have prevented the incident.

One hopes, for the sake of everyone on Sullivan County roads, that an ignition interlock is in this man’s future.