WASHINGTON – How drunk is drunk?
A 130-pound woman could be charged with driving while intoxicated in Maryland if she was caught behind the wheel after having six glasses of wine over a three-hour period.
A 170-pound man who consumes eight beers in three hours would also put himself over Maryland’s blood-alcohol concentration limit of .10.
“At .10, a driver is seven times more likely to cause a crash than with a zero BAC,” said Patricia Waller, director of the University of Michigan Transportation Institute.
A lower blood-alcohol level of .08 can bring a citation for driving under the influence in Maryland.
For younger drivers, the law in Maryland is even more strict: Drivers under age 21, the legal drinking age in the state, can be charged if they are caught with a blood- alcohol content of only .02.
Drivers convicted of DWI “must take a six-hour driver improvement program and a 12- hour alcohol education program,” said Carolynn Popp, an employee at the College Park Alcohol Driving Program.
Drivers who think they can avoid charges by refusing to take a test like a Breathalyzer when they are pulled over face even swifter response. Their licenses can be suspended on the spot and they may not get their driving privileges back for up to a year, said Richard Scher of the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration.
In order to avoid trouble, state officials encourage people who know they will be out drinking to have a designated driver or to take a taxi, rather than drive themselves.
And experts say that if people know they are going to drink and drive, they should eat plenty, drink a lot of water and never exceed the pace of one drink per hour.