Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs takes hundreds of lives each year – and those are just the numbers for our state. In the past few years, Texas law enforcement officials have experimented with different methods for reducing the amount of fatalities on the road. Extra vigilance and more DWI arrests seem to be doing the trick – but are they at the expense of truth and justice?
Unless you have a breathalyzer or ignition interlock device in your car, you likely do not know what your blood alcohol content is at any given moment. The difference between .07 and .08 is small in numbers, but big when you consider the thousands of dollars in fines and fees that you will have to pay for a DWI arrest.
Pair this with the fact that there are a number of factors that can impact how your BAC reads – some of them valid, some not – and it becomes incredibly important how blood-alcohol level works and what you can do to impact yours.
Before you begin to read about alcohol consumption, it’s important to know that every body will react differently, and no set of factors will result in the same BAC for two people. The following physical factors may have an impact on how one standard drink affects your BAC:
- Amount of body fat/muscle tissue
- Overall build
- Metabolic rate (the rate at which the body turns food into energy)
- Food in your stomach before drinking
- Stress levels
In other words, just because you and a buddy both had two beers, that doesn’t mean your BAC will be the same. Legally speaking, he might be fine, while you aren’t – or vice versa.
Amount You Have Had to Drink
This is a pretty obvious factor, but the more you drink, the higher your blood alcohol content will be. If you are going out for the night and plan to drive home, cutting yourself off after an early beer or two is the safest bet.
Of course, skipping booze altogether when you know you’ll be driving is even safer, and recommended in case you have to head home early.
If you are going to drink and drive, though, know what counts as a standard drink before you go out. If you have a cup of beer and then fill that cup with a vodka soda, you will most likely have consumed more than two standard drinks.
If you do not know how much your drink counts as a standard drink, it’s probably best to put it down and save it for a night when you can take a taxi.
Time That Has Passed
It takes time for your body to process alcohol and decrease the amount in your blood. In general, it takes one hour to process a standard drink. That’s just a general guideline, though. If you pound back four drinks in an hour, it could take longer than four hours to get the alcohol completely out of your system.
Essentially, once the liver is tasked with processing at least one drink, it becomes overwhelmed. For this reason, it’s best to wait at least an hour or two between finishing a drink and hitting the road.
Medications in Your Bloodstream
In general, it is not a good idea to mix medication and alcohol. A simple ibuprofen can spike your BAC higher than it would normally be without any medication.
Let’s say that again to make sure it sinks in. Popping a Tylenol – a Tylenol! – could mean the difference between driving away without any charges and spending a few days in jail for DWI.
This is where the question of truth and justice comes in.
There are lots of ways that our body can read as having consumed alcohol – even if we haven’t done so in a traditionally impairing way.
For example, if you swish with mouthwash that contains alcohol, a test may show that you are way over the legal limit. Certain foods cooked with alcohol can cause the same issue.
Those are just two ways this can happen. There are many others, and they’re important to recognize so you can protect yourself against unwarranted charges.
How Texans Can Calculate Their BAC
If you are ever in a situation where you want to check your BAC before you get behind the wheel, there are options available. Smartphone apps exist that allow you to calculate a BAC estimate by using factors like the food and drinks in your stomach, as well as your weight. Alternatively, you could ask the bartender if there is a breathalyzer at the bar – or you could even purchase one yourself.
Importantly, you need to remember that these tools all just provide an estimated BAC. However, considering the fact that the breath test devices used by law enforcement have been shown to be woefully inaccurate, taking your own estimate really isn’t any worse.
Also remember that Texans do not have to submit to field sobriety tests, but they do have to submit to chemical tests if they are arrested.
Stay safe – and stay sober on the road!
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.