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Under the legal limit doesn't necessarily mean safe driving

Like many others here in Georgia, you may be under the impression that you could only face charges for DUI if your blood alcohol concentration is at or above the legal limit of 0.08. Unfortunately, that perception is not necessarily correct.

Your BAC could be below the legal limit and still result in an arrest for DUI. Of course, those under the legal drinking age and those with a CDL license do not have to have a 0.08% BAC to face charges under the law. However, that is not what this article is about. Instead, it points out how alcohol affects your body at different levels since alcohol consumption can diminish your ability to drive safely even before your BAC reaches the legal limit.

Factors that affect impairment

When you are consuming alcohol, several factors can affect how your body reacts to it. For instance, your weight, height and gender make a difference. If you failed to get enough sleep, take certain medications, fail to eat or eat certain foods, it could change how your body handles any alcohol you consume. Of course, the type and amount of drinks you consume also make a difference.

From the first drink you have, your body reacts to the alcohol. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created a chart to illustrate what typically happens as your BAC rises.

What happens at a BAC of 0.02%

When your BAC reaches 0.02, which represents approximately two drinks, you experience the following:

  • Reduced visual functions 
  • Lower ability to make good judgments
  • Reduced ability to perform more than one task at a time
  • Increased body temperature 
  • Increased relaxation
  • Changes in your mood

As you can see, your ability to drive safely suffers even at this low and legal level of impairment.

What happens at a BAC of 0.05%

After approximately three drinks, your BAC reaches approximately 0.05%, you experience the following changes:

  • More exaggerated behavior 
  • Declining ability to track moving objects
  • Further loss of judgment
  • Decline in your coordination
  • Reduced control of your small muscles
  • Diminished response to emergencies while driving 
  • Reduced alertness 
  • Increased difficulty steering 
  • Lowered inhibitions 

By this point, you begin to present a significant danger to yourself and others on the road.

Could you face charges without being legally drunk?

Your BAC is not the only indication of impairment. If officers observe the above behaviors during a traffic stop, they could arrest you despite the fact that your BAC has not reached the legal limit. A police officer's belief in your impairment is not enough for prosecutors to convict you. For this reason alone, you may want to seriously consider challenging the charges since a DUI on your record could affect numerous aspects of your life.

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