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How Does Alcohol Affect Your Driving, Really?

There’s an old Scottish custom of providing visitors with a deoch-an-doris, or a parting drink (alcohol) at the door—and the Scottish phrase itself literally signifies filling someone’s to-go cup while they sit in the saddle. We’re not sure how a last libation to top it all off impacts equestrian skills or wagon handling, but it could certainly make someone in need of a DUI defense lawyer when attempting to drive a motor vehicle.


Unfortunately most Americans take drinking and driving very lightly. They figure a beer or two or a glass of wine at dinner shouldn’t prevent them from getting in their car and driving home. But many facts say otherwise. In fact, it can actually take up to three hours for a large glass of wine to fully metabolize (leave your system). A pint of beer can take up to two hours. And a small shot of liquor can take two hours.


Everyone knows someone who can juggle chainsaws on fire and walk a tightrope after taking a few shots (this might be a slight exaggeration). The fact of the matter is that alcohol tolerance and the impact of alcohol on a person’s system varies widely from person to person. Though, for most people, even one drink can impact your ability to drive a motor vehicle.


Just think of all the things required for operating a motor vehicle as safely as possible: maintaining the speed limit, responding in a timely manner to traffic signals, reacting to surprises like an errant pedestrian or another driver who forgot to signal, checking your blind spots…there’s a lot going on. Alcohol specifically reduces a person’s ability to judge distance. It slows the reflexes. It can blur a person’s vision (especially at night), reduces color perception, and slows eye muscle movement. These are all some serious side effects you may not mind at a cocktail party, but they can be disastrous on the road.


You might think that the South Carolina legal limit for intoxication on the road, a blood alcohol content level of 0.08 percent, is strict…but generally speaking, a single drink will raise the imbiber’s BAC by 0.02 percent. If you’ve had a few drinks and are driving a motor vehicle, you are putting yourselves and others in danger. Remember that even one drink can begin to impair your ability to operate a motor vehicle, just by virtue of the fact that alcohol functions as a depressant, relaxing your body’s functioning.


One related component to the dangers of drinking and driving is that alcohol reduces a person’s ability to make good judgements. Once you start drinking, you may feel inclined to have another drink, and then another. Before you know it, you are legally drunk…but with your judgement impaired, you may think it’s fine to drive home, especially if it’s just five minutes away, or just down the road, whatever the case may be.


Did you know that South Carolina is actually among the worst states in the US in terms of drunk driving fatalities, with 313 drunk driving related deaths as recently as 2017? To put that in a little more perspective, South Carolina had 6.23 alcohol related road fatalities per 100,000 residents, with only Wyoming beating that number at 7.60 per 100,000. Though these statistics are already a few years behind us, the numbers do not change drastically from year to year.


Drinking and then driving is dangerous. Even if it doesn’t result in a fatality, it can lead you to get in big trouble: in 2017, there were over 15,000 DUI related arrests in the Palmetto State. That said, if you’re having even just one drink, you should make a plan such as traveling with a designated driver. Call our dedicated attorneys in Greenville, SC if you need legal assistance.

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