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How Many Beers Can You Drink in an Hour and Still Drive?

If you have ever wondered, “How many beers can I drink and drive?” or “Can I drive after three beers?” there are many factors to take into consideration.

A 180-lb man may be able to drink 3.5 regular 12 ounce beers in one hour and keep his Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) under the legal limit of .08%. Similarly, a 140-lb woman may be able to consume 2.5 regular beers in an hour and maintain a BAC of less than .08%.

Keep in mind that these numbers are general estimates that assume that the average regular beer has a 5% alcohol by volume (ABV) level, and they do not take into account other factors. The following are known contributing factors to BAC levels:

  • an individual’s metabolic rate
  • age
  • food consumption
  • and more

There are also plenty of craft IPAs, stouts, and ales available with higher ABV levels which would impact the amount you can consume and stay under .08%. On the other hand, light beers have an average ABV of 4.2%, so the same 180-lb man and 140-lb woman may each be able to drink an additional beer in that hour timeframe and potentially keep a BAC lower than .08%. (And remember, there is no limit to the number of non-alcoholic beers you can drink!)

So those are the facts, but not all the facts. Read on for a closer look at the consequences of drinking and driving, plus some North Carolina-specific information that everyone should be aware of.

The Reality of Drunk Driving

You’ve probably seen the ads: “Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving.” And seen plenty of DWI statistics. But unless you have personally felt the effects of drunk driving or you work as a personal injury lawyer representing actual people whose lives have been ripped apart by the real devastation a drunk driver can cause, it probably doesn’t hit home.

But home is exactly where drunk drivers hit – and hit hard.

Families shattered. Children and teens’ lives cut short. Relatives left permanently disabled. Severely disfigured. Brain damaged.

I’ll never forget my first DWI case in particular, involving a registered nurse on her way home from a long shift at the hospital.

My client was leaving work where she routinely aided her patients. The other driver – the drunk driver – was considered a heavy drinker. The drunk driver ran a red light, striking my client in the driver door. My client was unable to work for months due to a shoulder injury.

While we were not able to turn back time and prevent the collision from happening, we did everything we could to help our client. We sought money from the drunk driver to try to:

  • “fix” our client’s shoulder with surgery
  • “help” our client after her surgery with physical therapy to try to regain her mobility and strength
  • “make up for” the intangibles our client suffered in the form of pain and suffering

Also – as a collision involving impaired driving – we sought money from the drunk driver to “punish and deter” him from getting behind the wheel and putting someone else in the community at risk of serious injury or death.1

Drunk Driving: U.S. Facts

So here are those national statistics again. Read them. But this time read them knowing that each statistic represents a real person.

Drunk driving facts including frequency of accidents and deaths, and the worst time of the day.

  • NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts reported that in 2018, every 50 minutes a death occurred as a result of a drunk driver whose blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.08 or higher.

That’s 10,511 deaths.

  • Among those fatalities, 67% were in crashes in which at least one driver in the crash had a BAC of .15 g/dL or higher – or roughly six to eight drinks in an hour.
  • Those 10,511 deaths represented 29% of all traffic fatalities for that year! Simply put, drunk drivers were behind about a third of all traffic deaths!
  • The rate of alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2018 was 4 times higher at night than during the day.
  • The highest rates of drunk driving occur among drivers aged 21-34. This age group makes up 52% of alcohol-impaired drivers involved in fatal collisions.

Drunk Driving: North Carolina Stats

Unfortunately, 3,848 people were killed in crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver in North Carolina between 2009 and 2018. The state also had higher alcohol-impaired driving death rates than the U.S. for every age range, as well as for both sexes, in 2018.

This same year, North Carolina drivers who reported driving after drinking too much in the past 30 days (1.3%) was less than the national average (1.7%).

North Carolina death rates by drunk drivers are higher than the U.S. average for each age range.North Carolina drunk driving death rates are higher than the U.S. average for both males & females.

Am I Liable If I Serve Alcohol to Guests?

You may be. North Carolina law says that when an intoxicated guest causes an accident, the injured party may be able to seek damages from the host if certain conditions exist. So pay attention to the amount you serve your guests and read this list of Ten Way to Minimize Your Liability When Hosting a Holiday Party.

Drunk Driving Links Worth Sharing

We know what alcohol does to the body and brain – it slows our reactions, blurs our vision, makes us brave, and sometimes compels us to take unnecessary risks. Here are some links worth sharing with friends, family, and others – especially teens and twenty-somethings.

And, it bears repeating, if you’ve been drinking, call a cab, or Uber or Lyft. Contact a sober friend or relative. Use public transportation. Use your head – DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE!