10 Tips to Avoid Driving Drunk

taxi cab snowing night

cop breathalyzer test dui drunk drivingLights flash in your rear-view mirror. Busted. You start to feel sick. You don’t relish a run-in with the cops even on an average day, but the thing is, you aren’t totally sure your blood alcohol level is under .08.

You start to get sweaty as the cop approaches your window. The last thing you want is to spend the night in jail and get your keys taken away for 6 months. You imagine the looks on your friends’ faces as they try not to judge you, and that’s almost worse than knowing you could’ve gotten in a wreck or hurt someone else.

Don’t want to be in this situation? Of course not! Nobody does. So read these 10 ways to make sure you don’t drive while you’re intoxicated. (And if I’ve left something out, leave your own tips in the comments.) Consider:

10. Give someone your keys

Find someone trustworthy who isn’t drinking and hand over your keys for the night. Make sure they don’t give them back until they are confident you are OK to drive. Any effect to your coordination, speech, and/or balance means your blood alcohol level could be high enough to convict you of a DUI. The worse your speech is and the more unsteady you are, the more likely it is that you are in excess of .08 BAC. Dropping things and running into things as you walk is a good clue you’ve had too much.

9. Don’t drink on an empty stomach

Science shows that alcohol is absorbed by the body more slowly on a full stomach. If you’re hungry or dehydrated, the booze will go straight into your bloodstream and hit you harder. If you eat a big meal before drinking, you won’t get drunk as quickly. Try to eat proteins, fats, and dense carbs like meat, cheese, a PB&J sandwich, or yogurt.

[Tweet “Don’t wanna drive drunk? Snack on meat and cheese to slow alcohol’s effects on your bloodstream.”]

And make sure you drink water — not soda — before, during, and after your drinking to slow down the absorption rate of the alcohol. (Soda will get you drunk faster.) Also, the old adage is true: Beer before liquor, never been sicker. This is because the carbonation in beer or soda makes the body absorb things faster. Mix hard alcohol with soda, and it’s the express lane for alcohol to affect you.

8. Know your body and pace yourself

Most people metabolize about one drink an hour (12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or one shot of liquor). Heavier people and men generally metabolize a little more, and thinner people and women generally metabolize a little less. However, diet, tolerance and many other factors make it difficult to pinpoint exactly how much NOT to drink. A decent game plan is to have no more than 1 alcoholic drink an hour and follow each alcoholic drink with a full pint of water.

See approximately how fast you process alcohol using this calculator or these charts. For example, a 150-pound woman might be able to have 2 drinks in an hour and legally be OK to drive, but not a 125-pound woman. And a 175-pound guy might be fine with 3 drinks an hour, but not a 150-pound guy.

IMPORTANT: These are just general guidelines. You should start knowing your body and not rely on charts. Hopefully you already have a sense of your limit. Whatever it is, avoid drinking games unless you won’t be driving.

hipster couple riding subway7. Take public transit

No, it’s not glamorous, but taking the bus home is cheaper than a cab (free here in Missoula, in fact) and safer than driving. Check the Mountain Line schedule here.

6. Spend the night

This won’t work if you’re out at a bar, but if you’re at a friend’s house, ask if you can crash on the couch. Or catch a ride home with someone and sleep on their floor. If you’re blackout drunk, don’t go to sleep right away — the harsh reality is that you could choke on your own vomit. Someone passing out from drinking should go to the hospital just to be safe. Don’t let a friend get alcohol poisoning or make horrible decisions.

5. Wait an hour or two

Time is the only way to sober up — not coffee (which will dehydrate you even more), not chugging water, not taking a shower. Your blood alcohol level will go down roughly the equivalent of one drink an hour, so hang out and help clean up after the party, watch a movie, take a walk, or get something to eat while you wait. It’s hard to do but a good idea.

4. Stop drinking 90 minutes before you plan to leave

Designate a time to stop drinking alcohol that is hours before you plan to leave. You will still have alcohol in your system hours after you stop drinking. To be on the safe side, plan ahead and count backwards from when you want to leave. Want to head home around midnight? Don’t drink after 10:30 p.m. Then you won’t have to wait around til 2 a.m. for your buzz to wear off.

[Tweet “10 Tips to Avoid a DUI: Calculate how fast your body processes booze, snack on protein, wait 90 min.”]

3. Take the night off from drinking

Be the designated driver tonight — and then stick to a no-drinking plan. If you and your friends take turns being the DD on different nights, you can drink on most occasions and have a safe ride home. Is the occasional night sober really that bad? You can laugh at all the drunken antics, and plus, you won’t feel totally gross tomorrow. If you really feel like you’re missing out, make yourself a mocktail with pomegranate juice and sparkling water, or sip an O’Doul’s. I know, it’s not the same…but you want to get home alive.

taxi cab snowing night

2. Call a cab

If you have the money, calling a cab is obviously one of your best options. You get to sleep in your own bed without any risk of getting a DUI. Sure, you have to pick up your car in the morning, but you might be able to get a ride (or take a cab back).

1. Pick a designated driver

Having a friend drive you home is probably your best option. It’s free, you still get to enjoy a few drinks, and you’re safe. Just make sure that friend hasn’t drunk too much! Don’t ride with anyone who’s intoxicated, even if they say they’re fine. Agree at the beginning of the night on who’ll be the designated driver, and don’t let anyone pressure them to drink.

I hope at least a few of these ideas are helpful. If the worst happens and you do get a DUI, I can help protect your rights and walk you through your options. And I promise not to judge. We’ve all been there. Call or email me at 406.721.3354 or judnich@gmail.com.

Photos: West Midlands Police, Ryan Vaarsi, Takashi Hososhima