*This article was written in collaboration with Kunhadi.org
People often ask how much is a safe amount to drink before driving. The straightforward answer is that the only truly safe limit is none. Any amount of alcohol can and will affect you. You must also be aware that you could still be over the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limit the morning after the party. You might feel fine, but the alcohol’s there and it can affect your driving.
“WOAH! Woah, woman. Are you suggesting I don’t drink?” No. I’m the last person to do that – Hello! Wine blogger, here. But I am suggesting you educate yourself on how alcohol affects your body, on the difference in alcoholic beverages, and on what counts as a ‘standard drink’.
So today’s blog post is a lesson in Science – concrete, irrefutable science, hard proof that you cannot choose to “not believe”. Except if you believe the Earth is flat. Then, I cannot help you. Also, keep in mind that there will be a test at the end. No grades, but a simple pass-or-fail mark.
Chapter 3: A Lesson in Science with Kunhadi
1) Understanding how alcohol affects the body
It takes literally minutes for a single drink to reach your brain and affect your nervous system. The alcohol also makes its way to your liver. However, your liver can metabolize approximately 0.1 g/L of alcohol per hour – that’s about one ‘standard’ drink per hour. So if you reach a BAC 0.5 g/L you need 5 hours for the alcohol to leave your system completely.
But while most people metabolize at the same rate, not everyone’s BAC increases at the same rate. Physical factors come into play, like sex, weight, and age. For instance, a general rule of thumb is that men are able to handle excessive alcohol consumption better than women. Men have more blood volume and less body fat than women – we’re talking about body composition here. In addition, men have a higher concentration of dehydrogenase – an enzyme that breaks alcohol down.
2) Alcoholic content in different alcoholic drinks
This here is my favorite part. Not all alcoholic drinks are born equal. Fermented drinks, like wine and beer, contain 2% to 20% alcohol. Spirits, or distilled drinks, like vodka, whiskey, gin, and rum, contain from 40% to 50% or even more.
The usual alcoholic content in each type of drink is:
Beer (2 – 6%) – Wine (8 – 20%) – Tequila (40%) – Rum (+ 40%) – Brandy (+ 40%) – Gin (40 – 47%) – Whiskey (40 – 50%) – Vodka (40 – 50%) – Liquors (15 – 60%).
In a nutshell, a glass of whiskey has 2 or 3 times more alcohol than a glass of wine and about 10 times more than a beer. So you may want to choose your drink wisely from now on!
3) What counts as a ‘standard’ drink?
A regular or ‘standard’ drink is equal to 14 grams of pure alcohol. Putting things into perspective, this amounts to:
- 330 mL of beer (5% alcohol content)
- 200 mL of wine (12% alcohol content)
- 45 mL or ‘shot’ of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor (gin, rum, vodka, whiskey)
Now just in case you were wondering what really happens to your body from alcohol, Here are the typical effects of different BACs on your driving capabilities:
BAC 0.2 g/L: reduced ability to track moving target, reduced ability to perform two tasks at once
BAC 0.5 g/L: reduced coordination, reduced ability to track moving target, difficulty steering, reduced reflex to emergency situations
- How you feel in varying degrees: The Parrot Phase (Psychomotor Excitement) 0.2 to 0.6 g/L: a sense of well-being and relaxation.
BAC 0.8 g/L: loss of concentration, loss of short-term memory, loss of speed control, reduced information processing capabilities (like signal detection, visual search), impaired perception
BAC 1 g/L: reduced ability to maintain lane position and brake appropriately
BAC 1.5 g/L: substantial impairment in vehicle control, attention to driving, visual and auditory information processing
- How you feel in varying degree: The Lion Phase (Incoordination) 0.8 to 1.5 g/L: a desire to continue drinking, feeling of sadness, aggression, reckless conduct, euphoria, difficulty standing, walking, and talking.
BAC 2 to 4 g/L: How you feel in varying degree: The Pig Phase (Coma Stage): difficulty walking without help, decreased perception, understanding, and sensitivity, almost complete anesthesia, coma.
On a final note, while ‘no drink’ is the safest number of drinks to have before you drive, remember to keep your BAC under 0.5 g/L. Use Kunhadi’s table in order to understand how to calculate your BAC and keep yourself in check.
Now, it’s time for your test! One question, one answer, and a pass-or-fail mark:
Will you be drinking and driving this year?