The key number involved with DUI cases is .08 percent or above when you blow into the intoxilyzer or take a blood-alcohol test.
Technically it will mean that you have .08 grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath. That’s often confused with .08 percent of alcohol in your blood, but that’s not it. Most of the alcohol consumed goes through the digestive system and into the blood stream. But a small amount, about 5 percent, is eliminated through perspiration, breath and urine.
Here’s how you get that way. The type of alcohol in alcoholic beverages is ethanol. Ethanol affects the central nervous system and acts as a depressant. One study of the affects of alcohol on the human body showed when alcohol is consumed, it makes its inevitable way through the digestive system and into the bloodstream. And then it works its way into the brain.
In low concentrations, blood alcohol affects the brain’s frontal lobe and reduces inhibitions. As the concentration increases, the parts of the brain that control speech, vision and voluntary muscles are affected. Response time decreases markedly. If it gets high enough up, around .30 percent, a person can pass out. Much higher than that and death from respiratory arrest is a real possibility.
There are many factors that affect blood alcohol concentration on the body. Given the same amount of alcohol, a small person will have a higher alcohol level than a larger person, simply because the alcohol is more concentrated. A muscular person can consume more alcohol than an overweight person of the same body weight because muscle contains more water than fat and, again, the alcohol is more diluted.
And, as most people know, food consumed with alcohol lowers and delays the peak impact of alcohol by slowing down the absorption of alcohol. A 180-pound man who drinks five beers in two hours would have a level of .066 percent, but a sixth beer puts that at .087 percent, which is above the soon-to-be legal limit for driving. A 130-pound woman who has four glasses of wine in two hours would be at .071 percent, but if those glasses were consumed in 1½ hours, it’s up to .086 percent.
These figures were put together to educate those who may drink and drive. The only true soberer is time. Cold showers and food consumption will not sober a person. So when thinking about drinking and driving, please remember these stats and choose wisely. Please use a designated driver or call a cab, family member or friend for a ride. The chances of getting arrested, injured or even killed are just not worth the chance.
Many a person or innocent victim has endured serious injury and death because an impaired driver chose to drive anyway. Please choose wisely and make the right choice. Please don’t drink and drive.
Kenny Martin is city manager in Mt. Juliet.