Safe Riding

When Enough is Enough

Written by  May 31, 2009

Whether its beer, wine or “hard liquor,” there is one truth that applies to all: When we drink, we are affected. No one can take a drink without being affected.

What’s intriguing about alcohol is how people of the same gender are affected differently depending on their body weight. Men and women are affected differently, of course. But even within their respective genders, body weight is a tremendous variable in how much (or little) someone can drink before impairment begins and eventually legal impairment.

In Canada, bartenders are trained to make an estimate of a person’s body weight so that they know when it’s probably time to stop serving drinks (for example, a 180-pound man on his fourth drink is a candidate for .08. Serving him more alcohol will probably make a bad situation for everyone).

In the two charts on the right, which were developed in Canada for their bartenders’ association, we see when impairment begins and then legally impaired driving begins for men and women, respectively, according to body weight.

Contrary to some myths, neither drinking coffee, taking a shower, eating, nor anything else will affect the blood alcohol content of a person. What can be affected is the rate of absorption. For instance, when eating a lot, the effects of alcohol may be delayed. But those effects will present themselves according to how many drinks, body weight, and how fast the drinks are consumed.

A couple of years ago, many states enacted what are known as the “implied consent” statutes. What this means is that if a person is pulled over and refuses to take a blood alcohol test, that person will lose their license for a year—regardless of the outcome of the BAC test. That’s right. Lose the license for a year for refusing to be tested, even if the test results are negative.

That’s a strong message from the legislatures and reflects the wise sentiment that is virtually inarguable these days: Drinking and doing anything in traffic is simply unacceptable. Driving a car, motorcycle, bicycle—anything. It’s simply too selfish and too risky for anyone to do.

While most people accept that assertion, especially while sober, many don’t have a clear sense of when they might become a threat to themselves or someone else (based on their body weight and amount of alcohol consumed).

These charts will hopefully help people determine when enough is enough.

1 BAC Estimation Chart data should not be relied upon without considering other factors and individual conditions.

By Christopher Hess
MSF Certified Rider Coach and owner of NEET Motorcycle Institute in Lawrence, Kansas