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How Long Should You Wait to Drive After Drinking? Longer Than You Think

You were familiar with the maxim to “wait an hour” before driving home well before you attended your family reunion in Swope Park. You switched to soda, sat around the bonfire, and continued to enjoy the party and after an hour and a half, you got on I-435, safe in the knowledge that you did the right thing.

Or did you? It may surprise you to know that not only could you have been over the legal limit on the drive home, but you could have been legally intoxicated for most of the following morning.

“Morning After” Car Accidents Show the Dangers of Alcohol in a Driver’s Bloodstream

While most people picture late-night arrests and 2:00 a.m. crashes when they think of drunk drivers, they usually don’t picture a woman who is on her way to work. However, for people who drink into the evening without leaving enough time to sober up, it’s not just the hangover that can kill you. A recent study found that drivers who had been drinking the night before were likely to fail a Breathalyzer test the following morning, posing a particular risk for:

  • Monday morning commutes. Drinking isn’t just a Saturday night event. Sunday afternoon football parties can run well into the evening—and even drinking “just beer” can put a driver at more than double the legal limit as he goes into work the next day.
  • School routes. Most employees will struggle through a hangover in order to make it to work, not realizing that they are actually still intoxicated. This not only places other commuters at risk, but also children crossing streets, riding their bikes to school, or waiting at the side of the road for the bus.
  • Driving companies. Taxi drivers, chauffeurs, and other workers who drive for a living may not realize they are impaired as they set off the morning after a night on the town.

So How Long Should You Wait to Drive After Drinking?

The problem with a “rule of thumb” for sobering up is that all people process alcohol at different rates. Remember: the “one hour” rule means wait one hour per beverage, not wait 60 minutes after five hours of beer and cocktails. While the best option remains not to drive at all after drinking, you might want to consider taking the bus in to work or carpooling with a coworker the following morning too.

Surprised that so many people can be legally intoxicated without knowing it? Your friends could be too. Send them a link to this page on Facebook or Google+ to make them think twice about late-night boozing.

 

James Roswold
James Roswold is a Kansas & Missouri personal injury, workers comp, and medical malpractice attorney.

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