The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regularly updates and publishes key information to help all of us maintain responsible driving habits. Of course, some of the most basic information – about how alcohol affects our minds and bodies does not change.
If you are having a drink or two and may drive later, it is important to know how alcohol affects you. The standard calculator for estimating Blood Alcohol Content relies on your size, the number and strength of drinks, and the time elapsed. But there are always additional variables that can influence your level or impairment (or not).
Key Facts Concerning Alcohol Metabolism
Although most people always assume they can “hold their liquor” when preparing to slide behind the wheel of a car, it’s important to keep in mind the following basic questions.
- Are you taking any new prescription or OTC (over the counter) medications? Have your prescribed doses changed recently?
- How much food have you recently consumed?
- Are you mainly drinking beer, wine or hard liquor?
- Are you currently well hydrated or have you recently worked out and failed to replenish your normal level of body fluids?
- Are you usually able to hold more or less alcohol than others of your gender?
- Has it been more than one to three hours since you last drank any alcohol? Have you eaten during that same timeframe?
- Has your food intake mainly included highly salty foods which can increase your measured blood alcohol concentration (BAC)?
- Do you currently suffer from any major liver or kidney function problems that might further impair your ability to metabolize alcohol?
Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST)
Officers use these balance “tests” to attempt to objectively document how your alcohol intake has impaired you. Here are some of the three most common exercises in the field sobriety test battery.
- The HGN. The horizontal gaze nystagmus test is the one you often see used in TV and film where a subject is asked to carefully “track” the movement of an officer’s hand as he or she holds up an object and asks the detained driver to follow it. The officer is looking to see to what extent, if any, your eyes tend to “involuntarily jerk” while following the object. If you’ve had too much to drink, this “jerking” movement of your eyes will be easy to discern; The HGN test is generally NOT ADMISSABLE as evidence in Massachusetts courts, due to its highly technical nature the need for an expert to explain and verify the scientific basis for this evidence.
- The WAT. The 9 step walk-and-turn test requires to walk a straight line heel to toe; and
- The OLS. The one-leg stand is where you elevate one foot for 30 seconds to test a person’s balance and coordination.
Of course, some individuals have underlying medical conditions that can cause a person to fail these tests and create a false impression that they are drunk or inebriated; we frequently present this type of information on your behalf should your case go before a judge.
If you believe you’ve been wrongfully arrested for DUI, be sure to contact the Law Offices of Russell J. Matson to learn more about your rights and to obtain legal representation.