How much can you drink and still drive?

drink and drive

The legal blood alcohol limit in South Africa is 0.05 g of alcohol per 100 ml of blood.

Put differently, it is the equivalent of 0.24 mg alcohol per 1 000 ml of breath. What exactly does this mean to you?  How much can you drink and still drive?

In an ideal world, nobody who has had anything to drink will get behind the steering wheel of a car. But we don’t live in an ideal world.

Alcohol the main cause of road fatalities

In South Africa, alcohol is thought to be involved in 65% of all fatal road accidents in which approximately 18 000 people are killed per year, and 150 000 injured. Driving under the influence of alcohol is a criminal offence, which could land you in jail for up to six years. In fact, after only one unit of alcohol, your chances of being in in accident are doubled.

If you have been drinking, it could slow down your body’s responses, affecting your ability to process information and to respond in a crisis while you are driving.

How much can you drink and still be safe to drive?

Many things play a role, such as your gender, your metabolism, your weight, your age, the type of alcohol you are drinking, whether you were drinking on an empty stomach and what your stress levels are.

If you weigh in the region of 68 kg, your body will take one hour to process one unit of alcohol. If you weigh less than that, you will need more time to process a unit, and vice versa.

One unit of alcohol contains 12 grams of pure alcohol, which translates into a single tot of spirits (about 10 ml), about two-thirds of a beer, or one small glass (75 ml – 100 ml) of wine. Men metabolise alcohol slightly faster than women do.

A woman who weighs 45 kg can be on the legal alcohol limit after just one drink, whereas a man weighing 81 kg can have two drinks in the same time to reach the same blood alcohol level of 0.05 g/100 ml. A woman weighing 63 kg will be just over the limit if she has two drinks in one hour. A man weighing 100 kg will be at double the limit after 5 drinks.

Handy tips

The intoxicating effects of alcohol can be reduced by not drinking on an empty stomach. Fatty foods such as peanuts or chips are particularly effective when you do drink, because the fat in the food will coat the lining of your stomach, slowing the absorption of alcohol.

Make sure you don’t lose track of how many drinks you have had, drink plenty of water in-between and get a friend to take you home, or phone a taxi if you suspect you might be over the legal alcohol limit.



South African against Drunk Driving; Road Traffic Management Corporation; Medical Research Council; Automobile Association

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