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Alcohol Limits: How Much is Considered Too Much to Drive?

— July 5, 2024

Because many factors can influence how alcohol affects you, it’s often safer to just avoid driving after drinking any amount of alcohol.

Operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol is a problem and cause thousands of accidents on American roads every year. It’s important to understand that different alcoholic drinks have different percentages of alcohol and can affect people differently. How much alcohol it takes to be considered legally too drunk to drive can vary widely based on factors such as body weight, sex, age, and individual tolerance. There are some general guidelines that can help you understand when you’re likely to be over the legal limit however and in danger of a DWI or DUI should you get behind the wheel.

What Is The Legal Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limit in New Jersey?

As with all other states, the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in New Jersey is 0.08%. This means that if police officers determine that your BAC is 0.08% or higher, you are legally considered too impaired to drive and will likely be charged with a DWI (driving while intoxicated). If you are driving a commercial vehicle and have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) then the legal limit is 0.04%. New Jersey also has a zero-tolerance law for drivers under 21 who are found guilty of both underage drinking and operating at vehicle while intoxicated. The legal blood alcohol content limit for those under the age of 21 is 0.01%. Any detectable amount of alcohol can result in a DUI charge. If you have been charged with an underage DWI you will want to retain the services of a DWI or DUI lawyer near you, depending on what state you live in, as soon as possible. 

How Can You Determine Your BAC?

There are several factors that can influence how alcohol will affect your blood alcohol content, including your body weight, the type and amount of food in your stomach, and your metabolism. For example, a glass of wine will likely impact a petite 5’2” young woman who rarely drinks very differently than a large 6’1” gentleman in his fifties who is a routine drinker. There are some general guidelines you can use however to give you a rough idea of how much alcohol you can consume that will push you over the legal limit in New Jersey.

1. Beer – A standard drink of beer is 12 ounces and typically carries a 5% alcohol content. Consuming a beer will usually result in a BAC somewhere between 0.02% and 0.03% depending on the physical attributes of the person drinking, a 180 pound male versus a 140 pound female for example. If you were to consume four to five beers within an hour it could push you over the 0.08% legal limit.

2. Wine – A standard drink of wine is 5 ounces and typically carries about 12% alcohol content. For an average male, one glass of wine can result in a BAC of about 0.02% to 0.03%. For an average female, it might be closer to 0.03% to 0.04%. Therefore, it would only take two to three glasses of wine in an hour to put you over the legal limit.

3. Spirits – Also referred to as liquor are drinks with higher alcohol by volume (ABV) content and thus a smaller amount of these will increase your BAC as quickly as with other alcoholic drinks. This includes drinks like whiskey, rum, vodka, brandy, tequila, gin, and more. These can range anywhere from 28% to 60% alcohol content in a 1.5 ounce serving. For an average male, one shot can result in a BAC of about 0.02% to 0.03%. For an average female, it might be around 0.03% to 0.04%. Consuming about two to three shots in an hour could exceed the 0.08% limit.

Factors Affecting Alcohol Absorption and BAC

Drinking Alcohol Has No Health Benefits for Those Under 40
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As mentioned previously, there are a number of factors that can affect how alcohol will impact a person’s BAC level. The most common factors to consider include:

  • Body Weight and Composition: Generally, the more you weigh, the more water is in your body to dilute the alcohol, resulting in a lower BAC.
  • Sex: Women generally have a higher BAC than men after consuming the same amount of alcohol, due to differences in body water content and metabolism.
  • Rate of Consumption: Drinking quickly raises your BAC faster than drinking slowly.
  • Food Intake: Eating before or while drinking can slow the absorption of alcohol, resulting in a lower BAC.
  • Metabolism: Individual metabolic rates vary, affecting how quickly alcohol is processed and eliminated from the body.

How To Recognize Impairment

Even if your BAC is below the legal limit, you can still end up being impaired. Some common signs of impairment include:

  • Slowed reaction times
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Poor coordination
  • Reduced ability to judge distances and speeds
  • Lack of energy

Contact A DWI Lawyer If You Have Been Charged 

Because many factors can influence how alcohol affects you, it’s often safer to just avoid driving after drinking any amount of alcohol. You can also consider using ride-sharing services, taxis, or having a designated driver in place if you are planning to drink while away from your home. If you have had something to drink and plan to get behind the wheel, it’s important to be aware of how much alcohol you can consume safely. If you exceed this, then you could be looking at getting charged with a DWI/DUI if you are pulled over by a police officer. When this happens, it is best to speak with a DWI lawyer near you that can assess your case and see what your options are. 

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