BAC Levels

Every state uses a blood alcohol content measurement, or BAC, to determine whether an individual is driving under the influence, or driving while intoxicated. Blood alcohol content measures the amount of alcohol in a person’s system by detecting the weight of alcohol in the blood. When we consume alcohol, it is absorbed through the stomach lining into the small intestine and transported into the bloodstream. Blood travels throughout the system, quickly being absorbed throughout the human body. Some estimates indicate that blood alcohol content can be measured accurately anywhere from 30 minutes to 70 minutes after a person consumes a drink.

The type of alcohol that is consumed does not affect the blood alcohol content measurement. Regardless of the beverage, the body metabolizes alcohol in largely the same way. There are a number of factors, however, that affect a blood alcohol content reading. Naturally, the more alcoholic beverages that you consume, the higher your blood alcohol content will be. If alcohol is consumed over a long period of time, however, it may result in a lower BAC. Someone who consumes many drinks over a short period of time will have a higher BAC than they would have if they consumed the same amount of drinks over a longer period of time.

Absorption of alcohol into the system is also modified depending on whether the consumer has food in their stomach. If you consume a glass of wine with a large meal, the chances are your blood alcohol content will be lower than if you had consumed the same amount of wine on an empty stomach. Body fat percentage plays a part in determining how quickly alcohol is absorbed into the system. Fat cells do not absorb alcohol as easily as other cells, slowing the metabolizing process. Your gender will also play a role in determining your BAC. Since women typically carry less water weight and on average have higher body fat percentages, alcohol remains in women’s’ bloodstreams for longer periods of time than men.

Determining whether your BAC is over the legal limit can be a deceiving process. Even though you may have only consumed two drinks and feel sober, your BAC reading can still measure above the legal limit. At a BAC level of just .02 percent, an individual will typically experience a decrease in visual aptitude and a reduced capacity for accomplishing multiple tasks at once. This makes distracted driving an extremely dangerous endeavor for motorists who have had a few drinks before getting behind the wheel.

Most people are surprised to learn how few drinks it takes for their BAC to rise above the legal limit. For example, an individual weighing 140 pounds will typically reach a BAC of 0.69 after only three drinks. Many services publish BAC charts to help people understand when they may be over the legal limit.

Throughout the United States, the BAC limit for operating a motor vehicle is 0.08 percent. Commercial drivers are subject to a BAC of 0.04 percent. Individuals under the age of 21 face penalties for a BAC of 0.01 percent or higher, which is also known as a zero tolerance policy. BAC limits apply to a number of activities, including boating and bicycling. It is important to know how alcohol affects your body and when you should refrain from operating a motor vehicle. Some countries, like Brazil, the Czech Republic, and Saudi Arabia, impose zero tolerance limits.