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How to Become More Aware of Your Own Blood Alcohol Content Levels

If you were asked to cut a birthday cake into pieces that were exactly three square inches, without using a ruler, could you do it? Without using a scale, could you make up a five-pound bag of potatoes? Could you pour a quarter cup of milk for a recipe using a normal drinking glass? Probably not.

If you can’t make these measurements without the proper tools, how can you properly estimate your blood alcohol levels without the proper tools? You can’t. However, in the absence of a breathalyzer, there are a few signs that can indicate your BAC level.

What Signs Indicate My BAC Level?

Again, without a breathalyzer, you won’t be able to accurately determine your blood alcohol content level; however, the following signs can help you roughly gauge where you fall on the BAC scale.

At .02% BAC
  • Altered mood (an individual might be happier or grumpier)
  • Relaxation
  • Minor loss in judgment
  • Subtle rise in body warmth

At this level, your driving can be hindered by a decline in visual functions and a loss of multitasking abilities. Simple tasks like steering while adjusting the radio or air conditioner become significantly more difficult. You might think that you have enough room to turn left before the next vehicle comes when you, in fact, don’t.


At .05% BAC
  • Difficulty with small-muscle control
  • Impaired judgment
  • Behaviour may become exaggerated
  • Decreased alertness
  • Loss of inhibitions

Because of the difficulties with small-muscle control, it may become harder to focus your eyes. In fact, your coordination will likely plummet. It can be hard to steer accurately, and you might lose the ability to react to emergency driving situations. Note: .05% BAC is the legal limit for driving in Ontario.


At .08% BAC
  • Loss of muscle coordination
  • Difficulty detecting dangerous situations
  • Self-control, reasoning, memory, and judgment are significantly impaired

At this point, it will become difficult to concentrate on the road. You start to lose control of your speed, and you suffer from impaired perception. You are not able to process information very quickly (like a stop sign or a small child walking across the road), and you may start to suffer from short-term memory loss.


What Affects My BAC Level?

After one night drinking with your friends, it will become clear that alcohol affects people differently. Maybe you feel fine after a few drinks, but you might have a lightweight friend who starts to get tipsy after her first beer. This is because alcohol affects each person differently. Besides the number of drinks consumed, a few factors include:

  • Gender: Women have less water and more fat per pound than men do. As fat cells do not easily absorb alcohol when compared to other cells, more alcohol will remain in a female’s system.
  • Food intake: If you are drinking on an empty stomach, your blood alcohol level will rise more quickly than it normally would, meaning you will start acting drunk sooner than you normally would. Fatty foods and proteins digest slowly, making them great foods to eat when drinking.
  • Weight: The more you weigh, the harder it is to get you drunk. Heavier people have more water in their body, which will dilute the alcohol, resulting in a lower BAC.

Why My BAC Level is Important

You’ve likely been told not to drink and drive hundreds of times in your life. But here are a few statistics to add a little perspective:

  • 25% of all fatalities on Ontario roads are due to drunk driving.
  • In 2005, 174 people were killed and 3,852 were injured in Ontario due to drunk driving.
  • There were 17,000 accidents due to an impaired driver in 2005.
  • With a BAC level between .08 and .10, a driver is 11 times more likely to get into an accident than a driver at zero. This increases to 52 times more likely if the driver is a young male.


In Ontario, the legal BAC limit for driving is .05%. If you get caught driving while your BAC is above this limit, even if you have not caused an accident, there are consequences.

A first offense can land you a fine and a 3-day license suspension. If you have subsequent offenses within thirty days, your license can be suspended for longer, and you can be sent to a mandatory alcohol education program. You can also be ordered to install an ignition interlock system into your car, which keeps your vehicle from starting if your BAC level is above .02%.

Identifying your exact level of BAC without a breathalyzer is basically impossible. You can make educated guesses, but the only way to ensure safety on the road is to never drink and drive. Choosing a designated driver, calling a cab, walking home, or calling a sober friend will help you to remain safe on the road.


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