Beware the morning after

Some people would seem to make a contest about how much alcohol they can drink and still function.

Party hearty! Some people would seem to make a contest about how much alcohol they can drink and still function. Early in my policing career it was not uncommon to find a drunk driver with a blood alcohol level between .30 and .36. These people were truly drunk and not just impaired as most of us would start to be at the .05 level. Time to head for home and sleep it off because some of us have to be at work in the morning.

Fast forward to mid morning of the next day and I stop a loaded logging truck in a school zone whose driver smelled of stale liquor. Yes, he had been out partying the night before but he thought that he should be good to go now. A quick test with an approved screening device at the roadside showed that this driver just squeaked in under the .05 limit. I could not impose any driving sanctions against him but I strongly suspect that he was not at his peak of safe driving performance just then.

Since we don’t really have any accurate idea of our maximum blood alcohol concentration after having a few drinks it can be difficult to know if we can legally drive or not. An online BAC calculator for a 180 pound male drinking that mickey evenly spaced from 9 p.m. to midnight indicates it should be about .14 at 4 a.m., the probable time of our highest BAC. We are now a 14-hour wait away from zero, and could still be at about .06 by lunchtime the next day. That’s enough to become involved in the Immediate Roadside Prohibition program if you are found driving.

Does that mean you should not have a glass of wine with dinner at a restaurant? Probably not, but as with all things, it depends on many factors. That single glass of wine does impair your ability to drive to some extent. If you are tired, feeling poorly, using medication, traffic is heavy, the weather is bad, it’s night time and the unexpected happens that glass might just be the tipping point between becoming involved in a collision and avoiding one. You can choose to drink or not to drink before driving and your fellow road users are relying on your good judgment.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. To comment or learn more, please visit

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