Understanding what factors affect blood alcohol levels

Even if you understand that it is illegal to drive if your blood alcohol content is .08 or higher, you may not understand just how many drinks it takes to reach that level. Although there are averages based on gender and size, these are general guidelines.

There are numerous factors that affect your BAC, and people can drink the same number drinks in the same amount of time and have drastically different levels. Understanding what these factors are may help you drink more responsibly.

Penalties for drunk driving

According to the State of Wisconsin Department of Transportation, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a BAC of .08 or higher; however, if someone has had three or more OWI convictions, the limit drops down to .02. With an OWI conviction, penalties may include fines, jail time, license revocation and a required sobriety program.

Factors that affect alcohol absorption

According to Stanford University Office of Alcohol Policy and Education, two big factors that affect alcohol absorption are biological sex and weight. Males tend to be able to drink more because they usually weigh more, have lower body fat content and have more of alcohol dehydrogenase, which helps with alcohol metabolism.

The speed of drinking makes a difference. Drinking quickly causes BAC levels to rise faster than sipping a drink does. Having food in the stomach or eating while drinking also slows down absorption. Other factors include certain health conditions and medications.

One thing that does not affect BAC levels is tolerance. To avoid an OWI, the smartest thing to do is to refrain from driving if you have had anything to drink, as you may not realize how the alcohol is really affecting your system.