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How long will it take your body to process your alcoholic drinks?

Whether you’re watching the game at a friend’s house or hanging out at the bar with your co-workers after work, throwing back a few drinks can be a great social lubricant and make the time fly by. When it’s time to head home, you want to make sure that you’re being safe and responsible.

Making sure you don’t drink too much too quickly is always a smart decision if you intend to drive, but how do you know when it’s safe to get behind the wheel again?

It’s important to understand that everybody’s body is different, and what may be safe for one person could be quite reckless for another. Still, there are certain guides that can help you understand if you are ready to drive after enjoying a few drinks so that you don’t wind up charged with impaired driving.

Performing a chemical test is the simplest option

The best way to know if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is under the legal limit for driving is to perform a chemical breath test. Many popular nightclubs and bars have coin- or card-operated units that allow you to do a test before you leave. That way, if you had a little too much to drink, you can grab a ride with a friend or use an app to schedule a ride.

If you are someone who goes out drinking regularly, you may also want to invest in a pocket breath test device for your own peace of mind. However, just like the devices used by law enforcement, pocket breath tests require regular calibration and maintenance to ensure accuracy.

How long should you wait if you don’t know your BAC?

In order to know when it is safe for you to drive, you need to have kept track of how many drinks you have had. In general, the body can process the amount of alcohol in a single drink in about an hour. In other words, one glass of wine, one can of beer or one shot of hard spirits requires an hour of waiting or more to ensure that your body has digested it.

Once you know the total number of drinks you consumed, you can determine how many hours it will likely take your body to process that much alcohol. Order some soft drinks or a snack while you’re waiting if necessary. In fact, having food in your system can make it easier for your body to process alcohol.

There are multiple variables that will influence how quickly your body can break down the alcohol you consume. Your age, weight, gender, overall health and dietary practices, as well as the frequency with which you consume alcohol and even your genetic heritage, can all influence how long it takes for you to be safe to drive after drinking. It is always better to err on the side of caution, as alcohol often makes people feel confident and unaware of how impaired they might actually be.

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Travis Noble is a graduate of the National College for DUI Defense at Harvard University, and he lectures at seminars nationwide on DWI/DUI topics. He is the lawyer whom other lawyers consult to defend their DWI clients. Most importantly, he has a track record of successfully defending some of the toughest DWI cases in Missouri and beyond.

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