Thanks to my friend Rick for sending this my way. In an editorial in the student newspaper for Temple University, the Temple News Online, student commentator Cary Carr writes about sudents getting drunk in a piece she called When Your BAC Exceeds .31 and the Label Reads Natty Ice, Trouble Brews. It’s mostly an anecdotal essay about student drinking and how kids should be more responsible and watch their intake. It’s all well and good, and there’s nothing I take issue with, but there’s just something that leaps out at you in the middle of it.
After all, there does tend to be a hierarchy to drunkenness, ranging from a happy tipsy to an invincible and shameless drunk to the stage we’ve all witnessed or experienced: how-are-you-even-alive drunk.
Of course there are more technical levels of intoxication, which Dr. Jeremy Frank, a psychologist from Tuttleman’s Counseling Services, explained.
“The best way to categorize stages of drunk is with Blood Alcohol Concentration,” Frank said. BAC is the ratio of alcohol to blood in the body. “Drunk is from .11 to .15. Very drunk is usually between .16 and .19. Once you get to .25 to .30 you generally are in a stupor, and from .31 and up would be the beginning of a coma.”
Hmm, according to the field of psychology, drunk is “from .11 to .15,” or above the 0.08% that MADD and other groups rammed down our throats in the early 1980s, when the standard was 0.10%, very much in line with Frank’s definition. Interesting. I wonder how other fields define being drunk?
Not to mention the fact that while .12 might mean “drunk” for one person, a heavy drinker may be fairly sober at an even higher BAC.
I prefer Dean Martin’s definition: You’re not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on.
I’ve checked my BAC with a breathalyzer (calibrated by the mfr). I’m a reasonably experienced drinker, long-time homebrewer. When my BAC is 0.08, I am *not* safe to drive. Just my experience, of course.
I think the idea of BAC as a one size fits all is pretty ludicrous. While .08 may be drunk for some, it may be unnoticeable by others. Add to that the fact that some days you can feel a buzz after one beer and others you can drink 3 before a hint of a buzz starts to show up. I don’t claim to know what would be an ideal system, but to me it seems the .08 push is just a precursor to a future .06 push. The limit doesn’t really solve any problems. The people that are smashed are still getting on the road, and some people that are fine to drive are getting DUIs for being right at some invisible line.
Case in point, I have a friend got pulled over for going 8 over the speed limit. He was asked to do a breathalyzer because it was a big game weekend in a college town and he had passengers that were obviously drunk in the car. He blew a .09 and spent the night in jail. Year before when he graduated.. the limit was .10. In the end, after thousands of court/lawyer fees, the DUI was thrown out.
Well if the test is done correctly for an individual, the reading is what the alcohol concentration for that person and it can vary with person, diet and current physical state. Blood tests are still the best way, just not so practical at the side of a road.
While I was stationed in Germany a few years ago, they dropped the legal limit to, from what I remember, 0.02. I think it was around 0.04 before that. Don’t quote me on that. This is mostly because U.S. service members and tourists were starting to top the lists of people causing drunk driving accidents.
This makes sense, have the limit so you aren’t legally allowed to DRIVE a vehicle after drinking anything other than a small sample or two. We really are very irresponsible people in this country as a whole in many ways with alcohol or otherwise. This may be raining on your parade, but if you were actually a reasonable and unselfish bastard, you’d make provisions. This might also force some to actually make their voices heard for better public transportation and DD programs.
This would make things more difficult for me too, but I’m willing to make some scrifics for the better good of everyone. This past week, I visited some friends in the country down in Wyoming–of all places–and on my solo trip back to Montana of about 415 miles, I wanted to stop and check out a couple breweries along the way. At each place, I had a simpler of 6, 4 oz beers–about four hours apart. I planned on being there well over an hour to play thing safe because some were higher ABV than others–which ended up being about two hours at each (helps to be curious about their systems and processes). Not great for time, but choices have consequences. I’m generally a “light-weight”, so I have to be even more conscious. I’m sure I was still rocking about a 0.04 when I left. I felt completely fine, but that doesn’t mean your out of the woods. Even the slightest bit of alcohol in your system can increase sleepiness and other unsafe conditions for driving.
Basically, I’m just getting we make excuses for why 0.08 is to low when it’s probably too high–just like some make excuses for having the highest drinking age of any reasonable country.
Also, I’d like to point out there are a LOT of people that think “being a little buzzed” is not drunk. Yes, it’s not lamp shade drunk, but it is a level of intoxication. Just another way of masking the truth of the matter–back to our problem with how we view alcohol in this country. But what do I know, I’ve only drank on four continents.
If universal healthcare can’t go over with little opposition, we’re screwed just talking about alcohol laws….
Whatever happened to DAMM (Drunks Against Mad Mothers)?
Nice one Scott.
“Even the slightest bit of alcohol in your system can increase sleepiness and other unsafe conditions for driving.” – Adam
Just want to point out, I’ve been really tired behind the wheel before, just from lack of sleep. It can be a dangerous situation to deal with, in some cases more so than driving with a 0.08% BAC; been there slightly impaired but well capable of handling a motor vehicle safely. Under the influence, I kept my car in my lane at all times. When I was tired and passing out, not so much. Should we start arresting people for driving when they’re body is telling them they should be resting, no alcohol involved. Road sobriety games would be about the only test law could perform, and you might fail; again merely from lack of sleep or nerves. Clearly you must be under the influence of some other drug(s). :-/