How many drinks before driving is impaired?

Alcohol is a common part of holiday celebrations. This increases your risk of being caught drinking and driving, which is associated with a range of penalties. Your first offense may be punishable by jail time, license suspension, fines, and other penalties.

Drivers are not permitted to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher. Each drink you consume increases you BAC and diminishes your ability to safely operate a vehicle. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains how the number of drinks affects BAC, as well as you driving ability.

Two drinks

While it is dependent on a person’s size and weight, drinking two alcoholic beverages often contributes to a BAC of about .02%. You will feel relaxed and uninhibited, while your mood may be slightly altered. When it comes to driving, visual functioning and information processing will decline.

Three drinks

Upon reaching .05% BAC, judgement, alertness, and muscle control will all be impaired. Coordination is diminished, which leads to problems steering. Should an unexpected situation arise, such as an animal darting into the middle of the road, your ability to react will be decreased.

Four drinks

After four drinks, most people have reached the legal limit of .08%. Reasoning, coordination, and concentration become further impaired. You may experience problems with short-memory as well. Because your perception will be affected, it will also be harder to make reasonable decisions as you drive.

Five drinks

Driving is significantly affected after five drinks. With a BAC of .10%, you will find it difficult to pay attention to the road. Your ability to operate vehicle controls effectively will also suffer, as will your muscle control. If you have a low tolerance for alcohol, you may even experience nausea and vomiting.