The primary factor that indicates whether you are impaired after drinking is the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). This is the proportion of alcohol that is in your bloodstream, affecting your cognitive functioning including reaction time, decision making, and motor function. In Colorado, a BAC of .05 is the cutoff for a Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) charge, and .08 is the cutoff for a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charge.
The most important components that influence BAC are the number of drinks consumed, and the amount of time that has passed since consumption. If you use an online calculator to estimate your BAC, these are the main factors that they will ask you about. However in addition to these factors, BAC can also be affected by gender. Women have comparatively higher BAC levels than men of the same body size, for a few reasons.
There are typically gender differences in muscle, fat and water distribution, where women have lower proportions of muscle, higher proportions of fat, and a lower proportion of water. These differences lead to less blood mass for the alcohol to be part of in women. The same amount of alcohol would have a higher concentration in the blood, and thus lead to a higher BAC, in women.
Women also have approximately 50% less of the gastric enzyme that breaks down alcohol in the stomach, so more alcohol makes it into the intestines and is absorbed into the blood, leading to higher BAC levels in women.
Additionally, hormonal differences can affect BAC, such that the week before a woman’s period she can be more affected by alcohol. Further, oral contraceptives can have a similar effect on the body, where women on birth control pills can be more affected by alcohol.
An online BAC calculator can illustrate how both weight and gender affect blood alcohol content. An online BAC calculator indicates that a 125 lb woman who drinks two glasses of wine could have a BAC of .06 two hours after she started drinking. Since this is over .05, she would get a DWAI charge in the state of Colorado. In contrast, a 180 lb male who drinks two glasses of wine could have a BAC of .03 after 2 hours, which is below the cutoff for arrest. A 180 lb man would have a BAC of .06 after two hours if he drinks 3 glasses of wine, however. While these are just estimates and exact BAC values can vary, these examples show how the factors of weight and gender can affect BAC.
It is important to pay attention to the amount you are drinking so that you don’t drive while impaired. If you find yourself charged with DUI or DWAI in the Denver Metro area or anywhere in the Front Range, contact Denver DUI attorney Kevin Churchill at 303-832-9000. He has been representing people in cases like these for over 24 years.