Beware the Morning After

Alco-Sensor FSTParty Hearty! Early in my policing career it was not uncommon to find a drunk driver with a blood alcohol level between .30 and .36. These people were truly drunk and not just impaired as most of us would start to be at the .05 level. Time to head for home and sleep it off because some of us have to be at work in the morning.

The Morning After the Party

Fast forward to mid morning of the next day and I stop a loaded logging truck in a school zone whose driver smelled of stale liquor. Yes, he had been out partying the night before but he thought that he should be good to go now.

A quick test with an approved screening device at the roadside showed that this driver just squeaked in under the .05 limit. I could not impose any driving sanctions against him but I strongly suspect that he was not at his peak of safe driving performance just then.

The Standard Drink

A standard drink is commonly spoken of in relation to impaired driving. In Canada, a standard drink is any drink that contains 13.6 grams of pure alcohol or the equivalent of 0.6 ounces of 100% alcohol. This means that a 12 ounce glass of beer with 5% alcohol, a 5 ounce glass of wine with 12% alcohol and a 1.5 ounce of spirits with 40% alcohol are all considered standard drinks.

How Long Does it Take to Sober Up?

On average, your body will eliminate about one standard drink per hour (.015) although this can range slightly between individuals (.010 to .020). So, put away a mickey of hard liquor (13 oz or 375 ml) in one sitting and how long do you have to wait before you are legally able to drive again?

The answer is not a simple calculation because your body does not always absorb the alcohol that you drink at the same rate. For the sake of discussion, let's choose 2 hours, which is the outside limit for most of us.

Next we must consider the possibility of a plateau phase for our blood alcohol concentration (BAC) which could also be as much as two hours. The plateau is a point where the rise from consumption equals the reduction from elimination and our BAC does not change. That's four hours.

Now we have to wait while our body goes from the maximum BAC to less than .05 if all we want to worry about is the law.

Since we don't really have any accurate idea of our maximum BAC it's difficult to subtract .010 per hour after those four hours. An on line BAC calculator for a 180 pound male drinking that mickey evenly spaced from 9:00 pm to midnight indicates it should be about .14 at 4:00 am.

We are now a 14 hour wait away from zero, and could still be at about .06 by lunchtime the next day. That's enough to become involved in the Immediate Roadside Prohibition program if you are found driving.

Having a Drink With Your Restaurant Meal

Does that mean you should not have a glass of wine with dinner at a restaurant? Probably not, but as with all things, it depends on many factors. That single glass of wine does impair your ability to drive to some extent. If you are tired, feeling poorly, using medication, traffic is heavy, the weather is bad, it's night time and the unexpected happens that glass might just be the tipping point between becoming involved in a collision and avoiding one.

You can choose to drink or not to drink before driving and your fellow road users are relying on your good judgment.

Reference Links:

If you caught that logging truck driver in most states, the maximum BAL for commercial drivers is .04, the driver would not only get a fine of probably $1000 but also lose their license for a year, first offense, and even longer if their hauling dangerous goods.

I have to double check some places but am sure .00 for commercial drivers is also the case. Personally I  always drive .00, I made my own law on myself to drive at "zero tolerance" no matter if it was my semi or smaller motor vehicle, and that did include not drinking the night before,  unless it was until the next night I had to drive, definitely not the next morning.

This is what you are likely referring to in the US and does specify "Possesses or, to any degree, is under the influence of unauthorized drugs or alcohol (placed Out-of-Service for 24 hours)." for driver out of service. This does not apply in BC.

It's been a while, maybe I'm remembering wrong as well. All as I can find so far on the internet is lawyers pages that agree with what I remember, but I guess they can't be taken as fact. One would think they should be fairly correct but I will have to check farther, you could be very correct, I don't know where you got your info, but it may be more accurate than what I've found on line.

But either way I'm sticking to Zero tolerance, it would be almost impossible to obtain a commercial driving job after losing my license for a DUI, or worse yet, injure or kill someone while DUI.

So in BC a commercial driver would have to be convicted of DUI before any consequences, that logging truck driver, had he blown higher would have had a big tow bill to top it off I'm guessing.

I don't think anyone is saying the lawyer pages are incorrect. It's just that they are about the laws in the USA in general and California in particular, not BC. It was interesting to see that the limit for non-commercial drivers 21 and over is .08, which is less strict than BC. Which raises the question if you are driving your own non-commercial car in California but have a comercial driving license, which level applies - .08 or .04.  To me there are many reasons to suggest the limits for both drivers should be the same. Are different levels applied to different categories of drivers for other substances e.g. marijuana?

Saying I don't know how accurate lawyers pages are as drivesmartBC may have had more accurate info than I had, that's all I meant, I like to be careful on here for being as accurate as I can :-)

That's a good question though that I would have to look up to answer for sure, I think some places hold higher standards just because you hold a commercial license, while others only hold you more responsible if your driving a commercial vehicle as great risks are involved compared to a single motor vehicle, that's their mentality behind it anyway.

I totally agree with you that all drivers should be held to the same strict accountability, no matter alcohol or drugs. The smaller vehicle that DUI could easily cause a crash involving commercial vehicles and cause just as much death & injury, that's the part they seem to overlook, at least from my point of view, we all share the same roads & Hwy's.