Varying Drink Sizes and Alcohol Concentrations Lead to DUI
Consumers who go out for just a couple drinks might find themselves drunker than planned and at risk of a DUI if they don’t watch the portion sizes and alcohol content in their beverages.
Drink sizes in bars and restaurants can vary widely, and many beers and cocktails contain higher alcohol concentrations than are accounted for in traditional measures of how many drinks a person can have and stay under the legal limit for driving.
A new report by the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association made clear the stakes of upping the ante on alcohol. While we measure “one drink” as 12 ounces of 5 percent alcohol beer, 5 ounces of 12 percent wine or 1.5 ounces of 40 percent liquor, the beverage you actually get served might be the equivalent of two or more standard drinks.
“Moderation is a universal guideline. But it’s more difficult than ever to determine how much alcohol one is consuming per serving . . . making the vague notion of ‘moderation’ even more elusive,” the NABCA report states. “A key to regulating this unique substance effectively is AWARENESS — awareness that not all alcohol products are created equal. Understanding today’s products and clarifying guidelines of responsible consumption will require a thoughtful, multifaceted approach to effective regulation and education.”
Don’t Ruin Your Life
“It’s a big problem,” says George C. Creal Jr., a DUI attorney in Atlanta. “Your standard pub glass is 16 ounces, which is obviously a beer and a third.” Furthermore, many craft beers served today have higher alcohol contents that reach 6, 7, 8 percent or more.
“And it’s impossible to regulate liquor,” Creal says. “No one pours drinks into shot glasses any more. They just free pour. Sometimes you can get three drinks in a standard mixed drink.”
The risks are clear. A 180-pound man who thinks he can drink as many as 5 drinks in two hours and stay under the legal limit of .08 percent blood alcohol content could in fact find himself far over and unwittingly driving drunk. The cops are unlikely to be sympathetic.
It’s also important to be aware that police in many states have the discretion to arrest a driver with a BAC as low as .05 percent if they feel he or she is a safety hazard. What’s more, people can fool themselves by not understanding that it can take up to two hours for BAC to peak in the bloodstream. “People go out with little breathlyzers they’ll blow after the bar and blow low,” says Creal. “Two hours later they’re driving down the road and they’re .12.”
Next thing they know they will be calling a lawyer and facing a big fine, loss of license and possible jail time, to say nothing about the guilt of potentially causing an accident that could result in injury or death. Every year about 1.4 million people are arrested for drunk driving, and about 10,000 die in alcohol-related crashes. Getting a DUI can be a life-altering event in the best of circumstances, and at worst a life-ruining one.
“I just tell people don’t drink or drive at all, or if you have to have one, just have one,” Creal says. “Two or three, boom. You’re over.”