There is a lot that goes into planning a night out with friends, especially when it comes to driving safely. Most people plan ahead for those occasions, finding taxi numbers or a designated driver well before heading out for some fun. Then, there are those unexpected “happy hour” events after work, or even having a few beers at home before realizing you forgot to run your errands. When you’ve been drinking, and find yourself needing to drive, how long do you think you should wait before starting your engine? How long after drinking can you drive?
That answer depends on how much you’ve had to drink, how long you were drinking, and the time that has passed since you finished your last sip.
A good rule of thumb to know how long after drinking you can drive is that for every standard drink, you need to wait one hour before driving. Reading the label before drinking can help you determine how “standard” your drink is, and allow you to plan accordingly:
- One standard serving of beer = 12 ounces, 5% alcohol.
- One standard serving of wine = 5 ounces, 12% alcohol.
- One standard serving of liquor = 1.5 ounces (1 shot), 40% alcohol.
Keep in mind that mixed drinks tend to include more than a standard serving of liquor, and that mixers like diet soda can increase the effects of alcohol.
Knowing this, the best rule of thumb to be a responsible drinker and safe driver is to always have a plan in place when you might be drinking, even at home. A drunk driver is a risky driver, and can cause an innocent person’s lifelong injuries or even death. Plus, drunk drivers often end up with a wide range of other consequences in life, from alcohol treatment programs to ignition interlock device requirements. If you plan to have a safe way home, you don’t have to worry about how long after drinking you can drive, nor does anyone else who may be in your path.