Tips and Information for Impaired Driving

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is defined as the level of alcohol in the blood stream. As the number of alcoholic beverages consumed over a period of time increases, so does the BAC

Drivers at .08% BAC are four times more likely to cause a crash than .00% drivers.

At .10% BAC – the former BAC limit for driving while intoxicated in New York State – the same driver would be up to 240 times more likely to die in a crash caused by drunk driving. 

The degree of impairment varies for each individual according to the amount of alcohol consumed, body weight, length of time spent drinking, and whether the person ate before or while drinking alcohol. 

Nationally 3 out of 10 people will be in an alcohol related crash in their lifetime

Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)

Measures the number of grams of ethanol in every 100 milliliters of blood.

What affects Blood Alcohol Content?

Blood alcohol is affected by the amount of alcohol ingested, the time it takes to drink the alcohol, gender, weight, amount of food eaten, overall health, fatigue and genetics. 

How is Blood Alcohol Content Measured? 

Blood alcohol can be measured through chemical analysis of a person’s blood, breath, urine or saliva. 

How much can a person drink before becoming impaired? 

There is no easy answer, any amount of alcohol will, to some degree, affect a person’s ability to drive.

What is a standardized drink?

12 ounces of beer or 4-5 ounces of wine or 8-9 ounces of malt liquor or 1½ ounces of liquor = BAC .02

How long does it take for the body to process one standardized drink?

It can take roughly 1-2 hours before one standardized drink can be fully metabolized in the body.

Is there a faster way to sober up? 

No. Cold showers, coffee, food, fresh air, or exercise have no effect on getting sober. Your body still has to metabolize the alcohol. 

Are there products other than drinking alcohol that will register a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)? 

Some products such as cough syrups, mouthwash, breath sprays, non-alcoholic beer and tinctures contain alcohol. Most will register on breathalyzers, but will not last very long unless consumed.

Level of Blood Alcohol Content and how it affects driving tasks: 


Reduced reaction time and divided attention. Drowsiness. Decline in visual functions.


Clouded judgment, impairment of the sensory motor skills, increased risk taking. Difficulty steering. Reduced response to emergency driving situations.


Impaired tracking difficulties, impaired vision and hearing. Difficulty detecting danger, inability to focus, and perception impaired.


Information processing deficit, risky decision-making, problems with speed control, poor/slowed coordination, difficulty pronouncing words.


Reduction in concentration, attention and perception. Reduced ability to maintain lane position and brake correctly.


Unable to function behind the wheel. Gross motor impairment and lack of physical control in vehicle. Blurred vision and impaired auditory information processing capability. Judgment and perception are severely impaired.


Feeling dazed/confused or otherwise disoriented. All mental, physical and sensory functions are severely impaired.


Have a Plan Mobile App

A simple and effective step you can take to before engaging in alcohol is simply – Have a Plan.

Whether it's walking, riding, carpooling, calling a cab or using a ride share. Plan for your night or day out by mitigating any potential risk of you or another, driving while impaired.

Check out The New York State Governors Traffic Safety Committee and the New York State STOP-DWI Foundation "Have A Plan" Mobile App.

This app provides you with a timely and convenient resource that enables you to locate and call a taxi service, program a designated-driver list, educate yourself on Blood Alcohol Content levels as well as information on DWI laws and penalties or even report a suspected impaired driver. Available for Apple and Android smart phones.

"Have a Plan" Mobile App

Drug Impairment

Drugged Driving:

Although the word drug is defined many ways, law enforcement defines a drug as “any substance that, when taken into the human body, can impair the ability of the person to operate a vehicle safely.”

Illicit drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, and heroin, can cause serious impairment and lead to dangerous and erratic driving. Some prescription and over-the-counter drugs can have a similar or worse impact on driving than illicit drugs and alcohol.

Cocaine: Aggressiveness, motor restlessness
Marijuana: Disorientation, Impaired Concentration
Methamphetamine: Hyperactivity, Distraction
Opioids (RX Painkillers, Codeine): Lethargy, Slowed Reactions
MDMA: Hallucinations, Altered Perception
Sleeping Medications: Drowsiness, Confusion

Dangerous Combinations: Mixing drugs even on a small scale can amplify a driver’s level of impairment. In fact, many crashes involve drivers with more than one drug in their system. What many people don’t know is that everyone’s reactions to drugs are different, and the effects can be unpredictable.

Which is more dangerous? — A driver impaired by drugs or a driver impaired by alcohol? It really makes no difference whether the impairment is caused by drugs or alcohol. Impaired driving senselessly hurts and kills tens of thousands of people every year.

Medications and Prescription Drugs

Do’s and Don’ts: Medications and Prescription Drugs

Don’t: Assume that all over-the-counter drugs are safe.

Many OTC drugs can cause a higher level of impairment than illicit drugs. A medical professional is your best source of information concerning the potentially impairing effects of a drug.

Do: Read the warning label on your prescription bottle.
If the prescription states “Don’t operate heavy machinery,” don’t even consider driving.Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you’re unsure if you should drive.

Don’t: Mix multiple drugs, or drugs and alcohol.
Drugs that act in conflicting ways can have a greater effect than a single drug, amplifying a driver’s level of impairment.

Do: Have a plan to get home safely.
Make sure your transportation plans include an alcohol-and-drug-free way to get home. Find a designated driver, use public transportation, or call a cab.