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If you have been drinking and are wondering if you can drive, you may ask yourself, “How long should I wait to drive after drinking?” The answer is no. You should never drink and drive, even if you’ve only had one alcoholic beverage.

Driving while intoxicated is a serious offense with long-lasting repercussions. If you’re charged with drunk driving in any state (having a blood alcohol concentration or BAC of .08 or above, or driving impaired), you may be required to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle. In addition, you may face steep fines and jail time.

The General Rule of Thumb: One Hour Per Drink

According to the National Institute on Alcohol, you should wait at least one hour for each standard drink. A standard drink in this context is 12 ounces of regular beer (usually 5 percent alcohol); 5 ounces of wine (usually 12 percent alcohol); or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits (about 40 percent alcohol).

Other factors may affect your blood alcohol level; going by this general rule alone isn’t a sure-fire way to keep your BAC down.

Drinking coffee, taking a cold shower, or other common “remedies” also won’t help you “sober up” and bring down your BAC.


Your weight affects how fast your system can metabolize or process alcohol. The less you weigh, the faster alcohol absorbs into your bloodstream. Thus, you’ll become intoxicated more quickly than someone who weighs more.

Because of this fact, a person who weighs 170 pounds will generally have a lower BAC than a person who weighs 120 pounds — even if they both consume the same amount of alcohol within the same timeframe.


Believe it or not, your gender can make a difference in how your body processes alcohol. The University of Puget Sound found that those assigned to be females at birth have less water content in their stomachs than men, making them more sensitive to the same amount of alcohol.

In addition, Stanford University refers to studies showing that women differ in body composition from men, and they lack some enzymes used to break down alcohol.


According to Web MD, the elderly may be more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol. As we age, it takes longer for our bodies to break down alcohol.

Alcohol on an Empty Stomach

The amount of food in your system affects how fast your body breaks down alcohol. If you drink on an empty stomach, you’ll become intoxicated faster.

Prescriptions and Over-the-Counter Products

If you’re taking other substances, prescription or over the counter, your BAC may be affected. Prescriptions are suspect, especially certain families of drugs that can enhance drowsiness when combined with alcohol.

Even using supposedly innocent over-the-counter products such as cough syrup and mouthwash can result in a high BAC reading.

The Real Answer to “How Long Should I Wait to Drive After Drinking?”

To conclude, there’s no simple answer to the question, “How long should I wait to drive after drinking.” In fact, there’s no safe amount of alcohol that you can consume without being impaired. And, there’s no magic formula to calculate how long you’ll need to wait after drinking before you can safely get behind the wheel.

The only sure way to keep your blood alcohol level below the legal limit is to abstain from drinking altogether before you drive. Rather than taking your chances, it’s safest to have a designated driver or make arrangements for a ride home.

About RoadGuard Interlock

RoadGuard Interlock has been serving customers in the United States for over 25 years. If you’re required by law to have an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle, you’ll want to work with the most trustworthy provider in the ignition interlock industry.

For peace of mind, reliability, and restored independence, RoadGuard Interlock is your best bet. Contact us to find an installation location near you. Finally, read RoadGuard Interlock’s blog for more safe driving or responsible drinking tips and stay in the know!


*Links to any third-party websites herein are provided for your reference and convenience only. RoadGuard Interlock did not create nor develop and does not own any such third-party websites. RoadGuard Interlock does not endorse nor support the content of, nor any opinions stated in any such third-party website links. RoadGuard Interlock is not responsible for the content of any third-party website or its accuracy or reliability. Nothing contained in this article or any such third-party website shall be considered legal advice or be deemed to constitute legal advice. For any legal advice concerning a DUI arrest, charge, conviction, or consequences thereof, you should contact an attorney of your choice.