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How Much Can You Drink Before Driving?

Pennsylvania’s blood alcohol content (BAC) limit is 0.08% for most drivers. It drops to 0.04% for commercial drivers and 0.02% for those under 21. Do you know how much you can drink before you break the relevant limit? Probably not.

Many people mistakenly believe they can measure their drinking to stay below the limit. Yet as many have found out, it is not as black and white as it seems. Here are some reasons:

Not all drinks are equal

One 5-ounce glass of California Chardonnay might not have the same alcohol content as another. The alcohol by volume (ABV) can differ by a few percent within a particular wine style. In wine as a whole, it can range between 5.5% ABV and 20% ABV.

That small gin and tonic the barman serve you is probably a lot less potent than the small gin and tonic your friend from college pours you. Bartenders measure their spirits, whereas most people guess when at home.

It depends on when you drank

Remember that bottle of wine you drank to celebrate your 18th? It is not still in your system. Your body processes alcohol at a rate of about 0.015 g/100mL/hour if you are an average male. Females typically process it slower, but each individual is unique. A person’s processing rate can also vary due to illness, prescription drugs, and food.

If you tried to count your drinks and the police say you got it wrong, seek legal help. It could be their machine lacked calibration. Even if it was correct, there are other DUI defense options available.