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Drinking and Driving Frequently Asked Questions

What can I do to help prevent drunk driving?
Two of the most important things you can do are to: (1) never drive after drinking, and (2) never ride with someone who has been drinking. Volunteer to be a designated driver, call a taxi for yourself or someone else who has had too much to drink, or stay the night where you are. There are plenty of ways to get home safely, but drinking and driving is not one of them.
How can I be a responsible party host?
Some of the ways that you can be a responsible host include:
  • Make sure each group of guests has a designated driver.
  • Collect car keys from arriving guests and never give keys to someone who is intoxicated.
  • Have a responsible bartender.
  • Serve food before serving drinks.
  • Offer alcohol-free drinks.
  • Stop serving alcohol well before the party ends.
  • Call a taxi for guests who have had too much to drink or, if possible, offer for them to stay the night.
What does "drink in moderation" mean?
If you choose to drink, here is what the experts suggest:
  • No more than one drink an hour.
  • No more than two drinks per day for men, one per day for women.
  • No drinking alcohol more than four days per week.
Who causes the greatest number of drinking and driving crashes?
Generally, the young driver is more involved than other drivers. According to the National Highway Traffic Administration, 21-34 year old impaired drivers are involved in approximately 50 percent of all alcohol-related fatal crashes.
How extensive is the problem of drinking and driving?
There are over 1 million arrests each year for DUI, nationally. Keep in mind, if a driver's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is below the legal limit (0.08 percent in Virginia), their ability to drive a car safely may still be impaired.
How about drugs and driving?
A person does not have to be drinking to be arrested for driving under the influence. Drivers can be arrested for DUI with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.00 percent if there is proof that the impairment is due to drug use. Driving after using drugs appears to be more common among young drivers (13 percent for those 16-20 years old) than older drivers (5 percent for those 21 and older).
Why is the term "impaired driving" often used, rather than "drunk driving"?
"Drunk driving" typically refers to driving with a blood alcohol concentration which is at a level where a person can be arrested for DUI (in Virginia, this is 0.08). Impaired driving means that a person's skills - including judgement, coordination, response time, and more - are affected much earlier before the BAC reaches 0.08 percent. It also refers to the fact that other drugs, including certain prescription drugs, over the counter medications, and illicit drugs, can affect driving skill. Each of these has important lessons for safety.
What is my best defense against an impaired driver?
Here are several suggestions:
  • Buckle up and make sure that all passengers are buckled as well.
  • Avoid being on the road when more impaired drivers are likely to be driving. For example, avoid driving between 10p.m. and 6 a.m. on weekends. Traffic crash data shows that more alcohol-related crashes occur during this time.
  • If you see an impaired driver on the road, keep your distance and pull over in a safe place. If you are driving in Virginia, dial 911 or #77 to report the driver to law enforcement
Does the type of alcohol I drink affect my BAC?
No! A drink is a drink, is a drink. A typical drink equals about half an ounce of alcohol (.54 ounces, to be exact). This is the approximate amount of alcohol found in:
  • one shot of distilled spirits, or
  • one 5-ounce glass of wine, or
  • one 12-ounce beer.
What affects my BAC?
How fast a person's BAC rises varies with a number of factors:
  • The number of drinks. The more you drink, the higher the BAC.
  • How fast you drink. When alcohol is consumed quickly, you will reach a higher BAC than when it is consumed over a longer period of time.
  • Your gender. Women generally have less water and more body fat per pound of body weight than men. Alcohol does not go into fat cells as easily as other cells, so more alcohol remains in the blood of women.
  • Your weight. The more you weigh, the more water is present in your body. This water dilutes the alcohol and lowers the BAC.
  • Food in your stomach. Absorption will be slowed if you've had something to eat.
What about other medications or drugs?
Medications or drugs will not change your BAC. However, if you drink alcohol while taking certain medications, you may feel, and be, more impaired, which can affect your ability to perform driving-related tasks.
When am I impaired?
Because of the multitude of factors that affect BAC, it is very difficult to assess your own BAC or impairment. Though small amounts of alcohol affect one's brain and the ability to drive, people often swear they are "fine" after several drinks, but in fact, the failure to recognize alcohol impairment is often a symptom of impairment. While the lower stages of alcohol impairment are undetectable to others, the drinker knows vaguely when the "buzz" begins. A person will likely be too impaired to drive before looking, or maybe even feeling, "drunk".