Understanding the legal limit of .08 can help you make better choices about driving after having a few drinks. Nationwide, the .08 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is a standard legal limit for drivers age 21 and over. Driving with a BAC at or above this level means you run the risk of being arrested or causing an accident that injures you or others.
While there are a number of factors playing into how many drinks you can have before you reach the legal limit, the number of shots, beers, cocktails, or glasses of wine is often much lower than people realize. The best choice is always to find another ride if you plan to drink. Even below the legal limit, alcohol will affect your ability to make safe driving decisions.
How does alcohol affect a person’s ability to drive?
According to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), even one alcoholic drink begins to change the way your mind and body operate. As you drink more and your BAC rises, the effects of alcohol on the human body become more and more evident. Alcohol alters your mood, emotions, decision-making skills, and coordination.
With just one drink, you begin to lose your ability to follow moving objects with your eyes, lowering your ability to track the movements of other drivers or even stationary objects you pass while driving. It is harder to focus your eyes, making it even more difficult to see and respond to unexpected hazards while driving. It also becomes more difficult to multitask, so distracted driving becomes even more dangerous.
At the same time, you are less aware of the dangers around you and have less inhibition than you normally would have. Your judgment is not as sharp, and even if you make the right decision, there is no guarantee you will have the coordination to make the car do what you need to do to avoid an accident.
For example, you see a traffic light turn red, you apply the brakes, and stop. But a drunk driver might see the light but not have the appropriate judgment, reaction time, or coordination to stop the vehicle in time. The driver might run the light and cause an accident.
Why is .08 the legal limit?
Like the rest of the nation, the legal limit for drivers over the age of 21 in California is .08 percent BAC. There is now a federal standard of .08 because at or beyond this level, drivers have a substantially increased risk of an accident or another incident. At the legal limit, there are both physical and cognitive effects of alcohol that affect your ability to drive:
At .08 percent BAC or above, a driver may experience major problems with:
- Hand-eye coordination
- Speech and hearing
- Vision and tracking
- Reaction time
At .08 percent BAC or above, a driver may experience cognitive challenges including:
- Lowered inhibitions and problems with self-control
- Issues with memory, including short-term memory loss
- Limited concentration and focus
- Poor judgment and reasoning
- Problems reacting properly to hazards
- Issues with perception
Beyond this level, driving skills can be significantly impaired. Issues with unreliable coordination, lagging reasoning skills and reaction time, and issues with sensory processing make driving safely impossible.
What are the potential consequences of driving with a BAC of .08 or above?
Many people think only of a drunk driving arrest when they consider the consequences of driving while over the legal limit. However, a driving under the influence (DUI) charge is far from the worst-case scenario.
Drunk driving accidents are all too common. In fact, the California Office of Traffic Safety reported 914 deaths in the state from drunk driving during 2015. This is an increase of more than four percent over the 2014 total of 876 deaths. When compared to traffic deaths overall, this number makes up 28.8 percent of all road fatalities in the state. There are also more than 23,000 injuries in alcohol-related accidents in California every year.
When the police stop you before an accident does, you may face jail time, thousands of dollars in fines, a driver’s license suspension, and other consequences. A DUI conviction can cause issues with keeping your job, continuing your usual activities, and put stress on your relationships with family and friends.
Discuss your DUI-related concerns with a Southern California attorney today.
If you have questions or concerns about a DUI arrest in Southern California, Greenberg & Greenberg is here to help. Our team of attorneys have an office in Riverside. This means we can work with clients and their families in Riverside County, and almost anywhere else in the Greater Los Angeles area.
Call Greenberg & Greenberg today at 951-274-0003 to schedule a time to talk to one of our Southern California DUI lawyers.