Levels of Alcohol Intoxication

Posted by Ryan Russman | Oct 29, 2013 | 0 Comments

Every year, thousands and thousands of people in New Hampshire drink alcohol and then get behind the wheel of a car. However, the reality is that only a small percentage of those driving under the influence are actually caught—with a breathalyzer, or some other testing method, showing they have a blood alcohol content above the legal limit.

While it is common knowledge that the legal limit for driving in New Hampshire is .08%, most drivers are not aware what the level even indicates or the physical signs and symptoms of alcohol impairment.

Alcohol & The Body – Signs of a Drunk-Driver

A blood alcohol test measures the amount of alcohol in your body, which is absorbed very quickly into the blood, and can show up within minutes of having a drink. The level of alcohol in the blood reaches its highest point approximately half an hour after consuming a drink. This test measures the alcohol content of your blood, usually expressed as a percentage of alcohol in the blood. For example, a blood alcohol content reading of .08 means that .08% of the person's blood is alcohol.

BAC .01 – .02

Impairment often begins with the first drink. At a level between .01 and .02, you will become more relaxed, your ability to divide attention between two or more sources of visual information can be affected, and your capacity to correctly judge speed and distance can be impaired. Clearly, even after consuming a small amount of alcohol, your ability to operate a car effectively begins to be compromised.

BAC .03 – .06

Once the blood alcohol content reaches .03 to .06, the effects of the alcohol begin to more pronounced. You may experience even more relaxation, mild euphoria, decreased inhibition and increased talkativeness. Your ability to concentrate will start to be affected, and your visual perception will be affected. Reaction times will slow and you will start to have difficulty responding to stimuli. At this point, your ability to operate a car has reached a point where it is questionable. While the law says you may drive with a blood alcohol content at this level, it is clear you are not operating at full capacity.

BAC .06 – .09

With a blood alcohol level between .06 and .09, you will start to experience significant disinhibition, along with increased extroversion and blunted feelings. Your speech, balance and hearing will be slightly impaired. Judgment and self-control become reduced. You will likely believe that you are functioning at a higher level than you actually are. At this point, you are most likely visibly intoxicated, whether you realize it or not. You are also most likely above the legal limit to operate a car, and certainly should not do soon risk a New Hampshire DWI.

BAC .10 – .19

At .10 to .19, you will start to over-express yourself, experience emotional swings and have a decreased libido. You will have difficulty controlling impulsive reactions, will become more daring and lose fine motor skills. Your reflexes and reaction time are even more impaired. In addition, you may start slurring your speech and staggering. With the effects of alcohol at this point, driving would be extremely dangerous—it is always considering drunk driving in NH.

BAC .20 – .29

Once you reach .20 to .29, you will experience a loss of understanding, begin to lose sensations and are at risk of losing consciousness. In fact, you may simply suddenly pass out. Your motor skills will be severely impaired. It is at this level that people have “blackouts.” Between the severe loss of motor skills and the likelihood of passing out, operating a care becomes even more dangerous than before—sometimes physically impossible.

Once your alcohol content goes above .30, severe and permanent side-effects may occur. At .30, you will have severe central nervous system depression, along with losing bladder function. You will experience heart rate problems and difficulty with breathing. At .40, you will almost certainly lose consciousness and will be at risk to stop breathing. Finally, once you go above .50 you risk alcohol poisoning and even death.

It is common sense to act reasonably with alcohol to avoid a NH DWI. It is also important to be aware of basic health consequences following excessive drinking. There is nothing wrong with enjoying yourself, but ensure you do so safely at all times.

About the Author

Ryan Russman

Attorney Ryan Russman has dedicated his career to fighting for the rights of New Hampshire citizens. His practice, based in Exeter (Rockingham County) New Hampshire, is limited to cases involving DWI and DUI, other motor vehicle and criminal cases, and many cases involving personal injury. He is, however, best known as one of New Hampshire's leading legal authorities on DWI.


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