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How drinking impacts blood alcohol levels

Blood alcohol concentration is a measure of the amount of alcohol in your body. Generally, the higher the BAC, the more impaired your body is by alcohol, which is why law enforcement uses BAC as a means to determine if someone is driving under the influence.

Alcohol interacts with each person's body in a different way, so before you have a casual drink with friends and then get behind the wheel, you should know how your body handles alcohol. Otherwise, you might find yourself facing DWI charges when you didn't even feel drunk or tipsy.

The Centers for Disease Control and prevention provides some average guidelines for how the number of standard drinks impacts a 160-pound male body. For the purpose of the CDC's chart, a standard drink is considered to be one 1.5-ounce shot of strong liquor, one 12-ounce glass of traditional beer, one 8-ounce serving of malt liquor or one 5-ounce glass of wine.

Between one and three drinks might not result in a BAC above the legal limit for a 160-pound man. Obviously, this depends on body chemistry and size, so a smaller male or female might be above the limit at a single drink. Even below the limit, the body begins to function with minor impairment.

At about three drinks, the CDC says a 160-pound male will present a .05 percent BAC and could have reduced coordination, difficulty steering and slower response times to sudden changes in traffic situations. Even one or two drinks can reduce visual function slightly and make it hard to pay attention to two tasks at one time.

While enjoying an adult beverage with friends and driving home after isn't necessarily illegal, everyone should be aware of how drinking impacts his or her body. If you unknowingly go above the legal BAC limit, you could face charges of drunk driving even if you felt fine to drive.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Effects of Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)," accessed Nov. 20, 2015

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