Canada’s jails are full of people who “only had a couple of drinks” before driving home. Yet the breathalyzers, the sobriety tests, the blood tests all told a different story: the drivers were intoxicated and in no shape to operate a vehicle.
Did the drivers get it wrong? Or did they know they were impaired and drove anyway?
The fact is, most people don’t have a clue how impaired they really are – they underestimate the amount of alcohol in the blood by a considerable amount. So never rely on your instincts, because they will betray you.
When can you drive if you’ve been drinking? First, the facts:
In Canada, the legal level of intoxication is .08 BAC. For a 65 kg man, that’s three drinks in an hour; for an 80 kg man, it’s four. But for a 50 kg woman, it might just be less than two. You can look up a chart on it, but charts are general. A better idea is to buy or borrow a good breathalyzer and do some tests. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your blood alcohol level goes up, and how long it takes to go back down.
If you’re at .o8, you can expect it to take at least six hours for you to be safe to drive again. The rule of thumb is that it takes an hour to metabolize a drink. But rules of thumb are not exact – they are approximations. Your age, size, physical condition, and what you had to eat could all factor in to how fast or slowly you metabolize alcohol. So if you don’t know that you are sober, then you might not be.
In some provinces, you can face penalties if you are driving with a BAC of .05. This is called the Warn Range, and it’s called that for good reason. At that level, your ability to drive is compromised. In fact, quite a few countries us .05 as the legal standard for intoxication. So it’s a good idea to avoid driving long before you reach the warn range.
If you are 21 or under, the legal BAC level is zero. If you’re caught driving with any alcohol at all in your system, your license will be suspended immediately and you will face other penalties.
The Truth of the Matter
No matter what your age, the only fully safe BAC level for driving is zero BAC. Any amount of alcohol makes you less able to deal with unpredictable situations, which can always arise on the road. So the best strategy is to have a plan to avoid driving altogether if you’re going to drink. Use a designated driver, taxi, or public transport. And if you will be driving after having consumed alcohol, you must wait until it has left your system. That can be a long while, so don’t be impatient. The impatient people can be found in prison, in the hospital, and in the graveyard.
This page is also available in: French