When Driving, What Does “One Beer Too Many” Mean?

too many beers to drive - how many?It was a routine traffic stop in Royalton Road in Cleveland – a police officer spotted a Honda Odyssey weaving in the road. When the minivan was pulled over, the officer smelled alcohol. That’s plenty of evidence for a sobriety test, which the driver took and failed.

The driver later admitted to having “one beer too much.”

So, what does that “one beer do? If this man is any indication:

  • It makes a minivan veer dangerously into the opposing lane
  • It makes you forget you have expired license plates
  • It causes you to go driving without your license

What’s disturbing is not just that this man was clearly not in any shape to drive. It’s that he thought that his condition was the result of “one beer too many.”

There are two things wrong with his thinking:

First, he obviously had a lot more than one beer too many. It takes an average man about four beers to get to .08, depending on factors like size, age, fitness, and how fast he’s drinking.  If he’d in fact downed four beers to get to that state, then three beers would have still made him too tipsy to drive.

But worse than the drink counting is the mentality of the driver: the idea that it’s all right to get behind the wheel with a belly full of beer as long as you don’t exceed that magic number. The fact is, it’s not safe to drink any amount of alcohol and drive.  It’s dangerous to drive right after drinking one drink. While the legal intoxication blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is .08, your coordination and reaction time are affected at a much lower level. If you cause a collision while your BAC is at .04, you can still be charged with drunk driving.

The idea of “one too many” is old school – it comes from the days when people regularly drank and drove, and took pride in their ability to get home despite the amount of booze they’d ingested. There was a bloodbath on the roads in those days, and it took a lot of legislation and education to change public attitudes towards drunk driving.

Apparently, in Cleveland, it will take a little more for some people, who haven’t gotten the memo yet: when driving, one too many is a lot fewer than you think.