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What is BAC? How Does Alcohol Affect Driving and Legal Limits in Georgia?


An average of 30 people die every day in the United States in drunk-driving crashes. That number, which comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is one to remember the next time a friend leaves a party under the influence, or a family member says he “has a high tolerance,” or a coworker grabs her keys after an extra-long happy hour.

When you drink, it affects your driving in a number of ways. And while there’s a legal limit (and stiff punishments for driving above that limit in Georgia), any amount of alcohol in the bloodstream can split your attention and impair your judgment. So what is BAC? And what happens to the average driver at the legal limit?

What is Blood Alcohol Concentration?

Alcohol, whether it’s beer, wine or spirits, is processed by the body in the same way. It’s absorbed through the walls of the stomach and small intestine and then passes into the bloodstream. From there, the liver takes over—processing it out of the body as the hours go by. But as long as alcohol is still in the bloodstream, it’s measurable.

Blood Alcohol Concentration, or BAC, is the weight of alcohol in grams in a deciliter of blood. Law enforcement officers can measure BAC in the field with a Breathalyzer. Medical professionals can measure BAC in a healthcare setting with a blood draw.

If you’re on the road in Georgia, you’ve already consented to BAC testing. Refusing can cost you your license.

How does alcohol affect driving?

At .08 BAC, drivers start to see severe changes in their ability to safely operate a vehicle. That’s why Georgia, along with every other state and the District of Columbia, has a BAC legal limit of .08.

At .08 and above, drivers may experience:

  • Vision problems (including double vision, blurred vision and poor perception)
  • Impaired muscle coordination
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Poor judgment or self-control
  • Impaired memory
  • Poor concentration

Of course, a BAC lower than .08 can also cause impairments. Even if you’re not driving illegally, it’s safest to avoid getting behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking.

What are the legal limits in Georgia?

Drunk driving penalties are stiff in most of the country, and Georgia is no exception. Penalties for driving beyond the Georgia legal limit of .08 BAC vary based on whether the driver is a first-, second- or third-time offender (over a period of 10 years) and can include jail time, community service or fines of up to $5,000.

Offenders’ licenses can be suspended, and after the third offense, permanently revoked. All DUI offenders are placed on probation and are required to go through a treatment program. After a second conviction within 5 years, a driver must surrender his or her plates. After a third convection, the offender’s vehicle may be forfeited.

Fortunately, penalties like these make many drivers think twice before drinking and driving. But there’s always more we can do to help keep others safe on the road. Don’t be afraid to speak up the next time a friend or family member tries to drive drunk. Help call a cab or rideshare, offer up your sofa if you’re hosting or volunteer to be the designated driver. You could be saving a life.

Personal injury attorney Macon GA

If you’ve been injured by a drunk driver, you need a lawyer with experience handling DUI cases. The Macon personal injury attorneys at Buzzell, Welsh & Hill will help ensure you get the compensation you deserve. Contact us for a free consultation today.

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