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Facts about BAC, impairment and breath test results

Many people in North Carolina may get behind the wheel after one or more drinks because they believe they are below the legal limit. However, having a blood alcohol content of below 0.08% can still lead to signs of impairment.

According to Lifeloc Technologies, here are the stages of impairment as BAC rises:

  • 0.02% – 0.03%: A person may feel relaxed and lightheaded.
  • 0.04% – 0.06%:Inhibitions lower and the general sense of well-being increases, as does relaxation. A person begins to have mild to moderate impairment of judgment, reasoning and memory, and he or she is likely to become less careful at the same time that actions become exaggerated.
  • 0.07% – 0.09%:Any person at this level of BAC will experience impairment. Vision, speech and hearing are affected, as well as balance and reaction time. A person’s judgment, self-control, memory, caution and ability to reason are impaired.
  • 0.10% – 0.12%:At this point, coordination and judgment are significantly affected. People at this BAC level will not be able to accurately assess their own condition.
  • 0.13% – 0.15%:Perception, motor skills, reaction time and judgment are severely impaired. A person will not be able to speak or see clearly, and may become anxious or restless.

While how quickly a person sobers up varies based on a long list of factors—age, gender, weight, height, food eaten, etc.—in general, BAC levels go down about 0.015% per hour.

AlcoPro notes that a person may have a BAC lower than the legal limit and still register a positive on a breath test device. This false positive may be due to residual mouth alcohol. Belching or vomiting within 15 minutes of taking a test may increase the BAC reading, as the air blown through the device is coming from the mouth rather than the lungs. Mouth wash or breath spray containing alcohol that is used right before blowing into a testing device may also cause a higher reading.


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