How many drinks can I have before I cannot drive?

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Drivers in California understand it is illegal to drink and drive, but many of them do not realize how few drinks it can take before their BAC surpasses the legal limit. How one absorbs and metabolizes alcohol also varies depending on a number of factors. With the legal limit being only .08, many people get behind the wheel when they should not.

Driving under the influence is a big problem, and the CDC states around one-quarter of traffic fatalities are caused by impaired drivers. When determining the number of drinks it can take before the legal limit is reached, it is a good idea to understand what constitutes a drink. It is a 12-ounce beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, 1.5 ounces of hard liquor or 8 ounces of malt liquor. However, because the alcohol content can vary depending on the brand or type of each, a serving may equal more than one drink.

The CDC estimates a 160-pound man may be able to drink four alcoholic beverages in an hour before being considered over-the-limit. However, others may reach .08 with fewer drinks. 

According to CBS News, a woman who weighs 130 pounds may only be able to drink one or two beverages before reaching the limit. Other factors also affect how fast alcohol is metabolized into the blood stream. These include genetics, the amount of food in your stomach and if you are on medication or other drugs. 

Although some are able to handle their alcohol better than others, this does not mean that they are able to drive. Your BAC is not affected by tolerance, so even if you feel fine you may be over the limit. Because of the factors involved with how alcohol affects your system, it is always a good idea to let a sober person drive if you choose to drink even one or two alcoholic beverages.



Jeffrey R. Smith

Jeffrey R. Smith

Managing Partner

Robert B. Waldsmith

Robert J. Waldsmith

Partner, 1999

William B. Smith

William B. Smith

Partner, 1978

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