One Number You Think You Know, But Probably Don’t

drinks-of-whiskeyIt’s a number we all think we know, or at least think we can guess at reasonably accurately. And it’s a very important number, one with serious consequences if we guess wrong.

Every year in this country about 1.5 million people guess wrong. Of those, some ten thousand do so fatally.

The number is simply how many drinks is safe to drink and still be able to drive.

A lot of people think that number is “a couple.” They think if they are just a bit buzzed, or relaxed, but they’re not slurring their words or stumbling between tables, they’re all right to drive.

The fact is, “a couple” can mean different things, depending on the size and type of drink. Other factors, too, make a difference: what you’ve had to eat, how tired you are, and of course, your size, weight, sex and individual constitution.

So “a couple” is generally a bad guess.

True, having “a couple” might keep you just below the legal limit of .08 BAC (though possibly not below Utah’s soon-to-be legal limit of .05). But numbers don’t necessarily matter when you’re being pulled over. If the officer decides you’re impaired, you can still get a drunk driving charge, even if you’re under the legal limit.

And of course, if you’ve had a crash, it doesn’t matter if you had one or two.

The Safe Limit – Zero

It’s worth finding out how many drinks your limit is. Use a good personal breathalyzer and measure your blood alcohol concentration after one drink, and do it several times – it takes a while for the alcohol to get into your bloodstream, and more time for it to get out.

If you’re smart, your bar will be lower than .08, which is now considered by safety organizations like the NTSB and the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine to be too high. .05 BAC is a better limit, and quite a few countries use .02 for good reason. Above .02 there is already some deterioration to your coordination, reflexes, and judgment. Zero is best, since driving is a serious undertaking which requires a clear head.

Find out your number. We’re pretty sure it’s a lot lower than you thought it was. And it’s a number that can keep you from a world of pain on the road.