What, Exactly, Is “A Few Beers?” Three? Five?

a-few-beersOne of the strange things about the crime of drunk driving is that so few people know when they’re about to commit it.

If you’re in a store and you slip some merchandise in your pocket, you know you’re shoplifting. If you step on the gas and go 70 in a 50mph zone, you’re aware that you’re speeding.

But a surprising number of people take to the road unaware that the amount of alcohol in them is sufficient to give them a DUI if they are tested by the police.

Recently in North Royalton, Ohio a man was arrested after his car was spotted weaving in the road. He told the police he’d had “a few beers.” As it turned out, he’d had 5 beers, plus 4 shots of Jack Daniel’s.

We often hear people tell others they’re “okay to drive” because they’ve just had “a couple of beers.” Depending on the size and type of beer, that could be enough to send you over the legal limit, or at least make you tipsy enough that you are unfit to drive.

It might be that the offender in this case was trying to downplay his drinking for the cops. But it is plausible that the man really didn’t think that he was too drunk to drive. People are surprisingly forgiving when it comes to their own driving abilities, including their ability to drive with “a few beers” in them.

Beers Are Not Created Equal

Not only do people not know their own abilities, they don’t know the alcohol content of the beers they’ve been drinking. While a Heineken Light will be 3.5 percent alcohol – in the range of many mass-market beers – some craft brews pack a much bigger wallop. A Pyramid Outburst IPA is 8.5 percent alcohol, more than twice the Heineken, and there are some brews that top 9 percent. So those two beers could be the equivalent of four or five.

So if you’re driving, there’s no such thing as a “few beers.” You’re either able to drive, or you’re not. And if you’re stopped by the police, a claim that you’ve just had a few won’t work. Once the breathalyzer comes out, numbers are what matter. Make sure yours are at zero. Don’t drink and drive.