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How Alcohol Impairs Your Ability to Drive

Long Island dwi attorney

Understanding the Effects of Alcohol

It is pretty common knowledge at this point that alcohol impairs your judgment and reaction time. Still, the details are a bit more complicated than that. For instance, do you become impaired right away upon taking the first drink, or does it take time for the body to absorb and react? How much alcohol does it take to impair your ability to drive? To answer these questions and more, just take a look at some of the science relating to alcohol.

Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)

New York law considers .08 the legal limit for BAC. That means that if you register at or above this amount of alcohol in your bloodstream, you are driving under the influence. For commercial drivers, the number drops to just .04. For people under the age of 21, a BAC of .02 to .07 will still violate the zero-tolerance law. It is not technically a DWI, but it is enough alcohol to be a violation because the person is drinking under the legal age.

BAC is Not Everything

Just because you are below the legal limit does not mean you are safe to drive. BAC is just one part of the problem. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), even at a BAC of just .02, a el=”nofollow” person can experience “some loss of judgment, relaxation, slight body warmth, altered mood,” and can further experience a “decline in visual functions (rapid tracking of a moving target) and a decline in ability to perform two tasks at the same time (divided attention).”

At just .05, people may experience changes in their ability to steer, they may experience limited coordination or even have difficulty operating in or responding to an emergency condition, such as ice, rain, or a quick-stop scenario. Yet, technically the person is not legally intoxicated.

Impaired Judgement

Sadly, alcohol is a sneaky substance because it creates a paradoxical reaction that can lead to disaster. The danger can be called a paradox because the perceived effects are almost directly contrary to the actual physical effects. On one hand, alcohol diminishes your decision-making ability and makes you less likely to use caution or carefully assess your choices (such as driving drunk). It gives you a false sense of confidence and security. Plus, it makes you feel good. Sadly, although your body is feeling a sense of euphoria, and you feel confident and in control, your body’s actual physiological reaction is slowing down and becoming less alert, less oriented, and less prepared to defend itself. This is why so many people who are arrested for DWI later feel completely shocked at their own decision to do something so reckless.


New York has a different category for those who are arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI) and those who are arrested for driving while ability impaired (DWAI). The latter of these two designations can be an impairment by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two. Even with a BAC below the legal limit, a person may be charged with DWAI based on other evidence of intoxication (smell, appearance, physical response, verbal admission to drinking or consuming drugs).

Long Island Drunk Driving Defense Attorneys – Fighting Your DWI or DWAI

If you were arrested and charged with an alcohol-or drug-related offense on Long Island, call (888) DUI-LAWYER today or visit us online. The phone call is free, so you have nothing to lose. Call us 24/7 for a free consultation.


(c) Can Stock Photo / GeorgeRudy

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