Drinking and Driving: What Blood Alcohol Counts (BAC) Really Mean

effects of drinking

In South Carolina, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol count (BAC) of .08 percent or more. However, even lower BAC levels can make driving dangerous. While you can legally drive with a BAC of .05 percent, doing so doubles your accident risk. By the time your BAC reaches .08 percent, you are seven times more likely to crash. Understanding alcohol’s effect on your body is critical in understanding why it’s so dangerous to drink and drive.

How Alcohol Affects Your Body

Alcohol makes you drunk by delivering ethanol into your system. It enters your digestive system, then your bloodstream, where it travels throughout your body and up to your brain. Once the ethanol reaches your brain, it depresses your central nervous system, making you clumsy and slowing your reaction time, and causes your brain to release dopamine, making you feel generally happier. It also binds to glutamate in your brain, which slows your reaction time and causes memory issues, as well as to gamma aminobutyric acid, which makes you feel calm and sleepy. Alcohol is metabolized in your liver at around one fluid ounce per hour. It also makes its way through your kidney to be expelled as urine and breathed out by your lungs. It typically takes around six hours for someone’s BAC to fall from .08 percent to 0 percent.

Alcohol’s Effects by BAC

BAC refers to blood alcohol concentration, or the percentage of your bloodstream that is composed of alcohol. How quickly your BAC rises depends on your sex and weight, what you’ve eaten and so forth, so what follows is a generalization. The following estimates are for a man weighing 180 pounds. For women, or for men who weigh less, it will take fewer drinks to achieve the same BAC.

After half a drink, the man will have a BAC of .02 percent, which will likely make him feel relaxed and warm, and make him lose some sense of judgement. If he decides to drive, he will have some difficulty tracking a moving target with his eyes and paying attention to two things at the same time.

With a BAC of .05 percent, or after one drink, he will likely have impaired judgement, lowered alertness, inhibition and small-muscle control. If he drives at this level of intoxication, he will likely have difficulty steering due to reduced coordination, slower reaction time, and a reduced ability to track moving objects.

With BAC of .08 percent or higher, or after two drinks, he cannot legally drive in the state of South Carolina. At this point, the man’s muscle coordination will begin to suffer, leading to difficulty in speech, vision, reaction time, balance and hearing. He will have trouble detecting danger, exercising reasoning and judgement, and remembering the events of the night. If he drives in this condition, he will have impaired concentration, control and processing capability.

At .10 percent BAC, or after three drinks, he will likely experience highly impaired reaction time and control. His speech and thinking will likely be slow and his coordination poor. If he decides to drive, he will have difficulty staying in his lane and braking at the appropriate time.

At .15 percent BAC, or after four drinks, he will likely have far less muscle control than usual. He will have trouble keeping his balance, and may vomit. If he drives in this condition, it will be incredibly difficult for him to control his vehicle.

Have You Been Involved in a Drunk Driving Accident?

In the United States, someone is killed by a drunk driver every 51 minutes and countless others injured. If you are the victim of a drunk driving accident in South Carolina, the personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Craig F. Wilkerson can help you receive fair compensation. Contact us online to schedule a free case evaluation or call us at: