The Science Behind Drinking and Driving Home from Holiday Parties

close-up shot of friends toasting wine glasses with a festive spread of holiday food on the table

It’s no secret that alcohol consumption increases in general during the holiday season. Between parties, special dinners, and the festivities, the spirits tend to flow freely this time of year.

That’s why it’s more important than ever to remember your safety rules when it comes to drinking and driving. Normally, we would simply encourage you to carpool or call for an Uber if you’ve had any cocktails at the office Christmas party, but we also realize that it isn’t exactly realistic to expect everyone to take these precautions – especially if you plan on only having one drink during the entire evening.

So this holiday season, brush up on the science behind your alcohol consumption and learn more about how you can toast the host of the party, and still drive safely at the end of the night.

How it works

Bringing your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels back down is not always so simple as flushing your system with water and black coffee. Because of the way it circulates through your body, alcohol can take hours to be fully metabolized, even with extra precautions like drinking other fluids and pacing oneself.

Most people stick to the “one drink per hour” rule if they know they’ll have to drive or hop over to another party. That doesn’t give your body much time to absorb the alcohol, even for something like a moderate glass of wine. Once alcohol hits your stomach, blood vessels start carrying it all over your body. During that time, you’re probably feeling a pleasant buzz in several areas at once, like your face and limbs. When you keep drinking, you’re giving your vessels that much more to circulate, not replacing what they’ve already transported to the rest of you. The result? A higher BAC, and the Uber ride receipt to prove it.   

Your timeframe

There are a number of factors that go into processing the alcohol you’ve had in a given night, which is why it can affect people in so many different ways. Taking advantage of the delicious snacks your host provides certainly helps, so don’t pass on the hors d’oeuvres! The more food is in your stomach, the slower your tissues are to take in alcohol, and the lower your BAC.

But even if you have recently eaten, there are still other things that could be standing in your way of a safe commute home. Generally healthier people, for example, tend to process alcohol faster because leaner tissue soaks up those molecules better than softer tissue does. Your metabolism can also play a key role in lowering your BAC levels, as can certain medications you’re taking. The bottom line is, once you’ve started drinking for the evening, you automatically risk several consequences to getting behind the wheel, including accidents, DUIs, and serious injury. Better to be safe than sorry: have the Uber app or a ride with a sober friend lined up and ready to go.

For more on current laws and how to keep your record clean, stay tuned to Wentz Law Firm’s company blog!

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