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Your body and the effects of alcohol

It is no secret that drinking and driving is never a good idea. Driving while impaired places you in danger of having an accident, injuring others and facing mountains of legal trouble. Rhode Island's DUI penalties are among the toughest on the east coast, including fines, jail time, license suspensions and increased penalties for subsequent offenses.

What you may find frustrating is that it is not always easy to tell when you are impaired. You may feel the buzz of the alcohol but still have confidence that you can operate a motor vehicle safely, at least for as long as it takes you to get home. Nevertheless, your blood alcohol content may tell a very different story.

How do I lower my BAC?

Unlike other foods and beverages, alcohol passes quickly into your bloodstream. It is the concentration of alcohol in your blood that law enforcement uses to determine if you are impaired. The alcohol in your blood passed through your lungs, and a Breathalyzer test measures the percentage of alcohol on your breath. In Rhode Island and most other states, a BAC of .08 or higher is over the legal limit of alcohol in your body.

You cannot wash alcohol out of your system by drinking water or counteract it by drinking coffee. A cold shower or walk around the block will not lower your BAC. The only thing that will reduce the amount of alcohol in your blood stream is time. Studies show that an alcoholic beverage affects your BAC for 45 minutes. This means it is a good idea to wait 45 minutes per drink from the time you finish the drink to the time you get behind the wheel.


Although the law sets the .08 BAC limit for every driver, there are factors that may vary the way different people react to alcohol. For example, if you are a woman, you are likely to reach .08 faster than a man and so should wait one hour per drink instead of 45 minutes. Additionally, if you have a small frame or have not eaten much that day, the maximum BAC might occur after fewer drinks.

These are merely suggestions, and your body may react very differently than the above examples. The best way to avoid the negative consequences of drinking and driving is to make alternate arrangements for transportation when you plan to consume alcohol. However, if you find yourself facing charges for DUI, you have rights to protect, including the right to legal counsel.

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