To operate a vehicle safely, you need to drive responsibly. Blood Alcohol Content reduces brain function and impairs thinking, reasoning and muscle coordination. All these abilities are essential to operating a vehicle safely.
What Happens in Your Body When You Drink?
Alcohol is quickly absorbed — 20% through the stomach and 80% through the small intestine — with effects felt within 5 to 10 minutes after drinking. Blood Alcohol Content usually peaks after 30 to 90 minutes and is carried through all the organs of the body through the bloodstream where it accumulates until it is metabolized. Most of the metabolism, or breaking down, of alcohol is performed by the liver, with the rest excreted through the lungs (allowing alcohol breath tests), through the kidneys (into urine), and in sweat. The liver can only break down a certain amount of alcohol per hour, which for an average person is around one standard drink.
How is Your Blood Alcohol Content Measured?
Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) or blood alcohol level is the concentration of alcohol in the bloodstream. It is usually measured as mass per volume. For example, a BAC of 0.04% means 0.4% or 0.04 grams of alcohol per 100 grams of individual’s blood. BAC can be measured with a breathalyzer or by a blood test.
The Effects of Blood Alcohol Content
As alcohol levels rise in a person’s system, the negative effects on the central nervous system increase, too. At a BAC of .08, crash risk increases exponentially. However, even a small amount of alcohol can affect driving ability.
Some loss of judgment; relaxation, slight body warmth, altered mood
Decline in visual functions (rapid tracking of a moving target), decline in ability to perform two tasks at the same time (divided attention)
Exaggerated behavior, may have loss of small-muscle control (e.g., focusing your eyes), impaired judgment, usually good feeling, lowered alertness, release of inhibition
Reduced coordination, reduced ability to track moving objects, difficulty steering, reduced response to emergency driving situations
Muscle coordination becomes poor (e.g., balance, speech, vision, reaction time, and hearing), harder to detect danger; judgment, self-control, reasoning, and memory are impaired
Concentration, short-term memory loss, speed control, reduced information processing capability (e.g., signal detection, visual search), impaired perception
Clear deterioration of reaction time and control, slurred speech, poor coordination, and slowed thinking
Reduced ability to maintain lane position and brake appropriately
Far less muscle control than normal, vomiting may occur (unless this level is reached slowly or a person has developed a tolerance for alcohol), major loss of balance
Substantial impairment in vehicle control, attention to driving task, and in necessary visual and auditory information processing
Take steps to prevent drunk driving:
- If you drink, don’t drive. Plan your safe ride home ahead of time. Designate a sober driver, call a ride service or a taxi, phone a sober friend or family member, use public transportation.
- Don’t let anyone else drink and drive. If someone you know has been drinking, do not let them get behind the wheel. Take their keys and help them get a sober ride home.
- Be a Responsible Host. If you’re hosting a party where alcohol will be served, make sure all guests leave with a sober driver.