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The Basics of BAC (Blood Alcohol Content)

ID-100163809-3If you’ve ever known anyone who was pulled over for drunk driving, or read an article about someone who was arrested for doing it, you’ve heard the term BAC. What is BAC, and what does every driver need to know about it?

Q: What is “BAC” and what is “BAL”?

A: The amount of alcohol in a person’s body is measured by the weight of the alcohol in a certain volume of blood. This is called the blood alcohol concentration, or BAC. BAL is another term for the same type of measurement: blood alcohol level.

Q: Does the type of alcohol you drink affect your BAC?

A: No. All drinks are fairly equal when it comes to the approximate amount of alcohol in them. For example, you will consume about half an ounce of alcohol if you drink:

  • One shot of hard liquors
  • One 5-ounce glass of wine
  • One 12-ounce beer.

Q: What factors can affect my BAC?

A: Your BAC will depend on a number of factors:

  • How many drinks you’ve had.
  • How fast you drink.
  • Your gender. Because women generally have less water and more body fat per pound of body weight than men, and alcohol doesn’t go into fat cells as easily as other cells, more alcohol remains in the women’s bloodstream.
  • Your weight. The more you weigh, the more water you have in your body. This water dilutes the alcohol and lowers your BAC.
  • Whether you have food in your stomach.

Q: Can other medications or drugs affect my BAC?

A: Most prescribed medications or drugs have no effect on your BAC—but if you drink alcohol while taking certain medications, the combination may impair you more than alcohol alone.  However, some over the counter medications such as certain cough syrups may contain alcohol.

Q: How will I know I’m impaired, and why should I care?

A: It’s very difficult to assess your own BAC or level of impairment. In fact, the failure to recognize alcohol impairment is often a symptom of impairment! And every state has passed a law making it illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher. You can also be arrested with a BAC below .08 when a law enforcement officer has probable cause, based on your driving behavior.

In single-vehicle crashes, the relative risk of a driver with BAC between .08 and .10 is at least 11 times greater than for sober drivers, and 52 times greater for young males. Further, many studies have shown that even small amounts of alcohol can impair a person’s ability to drive. To keep yourself and others safe on the road, don’t drink and drive!

If you’re worried about your drinking habits, or the drinking habits of someone you love, call Horizon today. We’re here to help you stay safe and healthy.