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Is it safer to drive on beer than hard alcohol or wine?

People can react differently to different types of alcohol. It may seem like liquor gets you drunker than beer or a red wine hangover is worse than a gin and tonic hangover. Different types of alcohol can impact your body in different ways. However, when it comes to the legal limit, alcohol is alcohol and it is not safe to drive after drinking too much of any alcoholic beverage.

If you were arrested for a DUI in California but did not feel impaired, contact the experienced East Bay DUI lawyer Lynn Gorelick today.

How Different Drinks Are Absorbed

Alcohol is primarily absorbed through the stomach and small intestine. This puts alcohol into the bloodstream which then goes on to impact a number of body processes, including the brain and nervous system. The liver has limited ability to process alcohol, so the more alcohol is consumed, the longer it will take the body to metabolize the alcohol.

Alcohol can be absorbed into the body at a faster rate based on the alcohol percentage. For example, even though a standard beer has the same amount of alcohol as a shot of liquor, the alcohol in the shot may be absorbed into the body faster than the alcohol in the beer. This may make it feel like a shot hits you harder even though the drinks contain the same amount of alcohol.

Other ways to slow down the absorption of alcohol in the body include drinking water or other liquids and eating food. However, water or food does not reduce the amount of alcohol in the body, only slows the absorption of alcohol.

Different Alcohols Make Different Drunks

A lot of people feel like different types of alcohol make different types of drunks. However, this may be more attached to the drinker's mood before consuming alcohol than any physical effects. Expectations about how a certain drink will make you react will make it more likely that you will react that way.

Shots of hard alcohol may make people feel differently because they are quickly absorbed into the body and increase the impact on the body and mood. However, this may have to do with the concentration of alcohol rather than the specific type.

There may be some big differences in how different drinks can make you feel at the hangover stage. One of the causes of hangovers are congeners, which are substances formed during the fermentation of alcohol. Drinks like vodka generally have fewer congeners than whiskey and white wine fewer than red wine.

Understanding hangover cures can be misleading for understanding sobering up. This leads some people to associate positive hangover cures with speeding up alcohol processing. Staying hydrated and drinking on a full stomach can reduce the hangover effects but it does not speed up alcohol metabolization by the liver.

Problems with Counting Drinks to Measure Impairment

There is a lot of information about drinking and driving based on the number of drinks a person has had over a certain amount of time. Typically, the body processes about one drink per hour. However, this rate can depend on a number of factors, including:

  • Weight
  • Fitness level
  • Alcohol percentage
  • Drink size
  • Food intake
  • Water/liquid intake
  • Medical conditions
  • Time
  • Sex

The problem with counting drinks is that what is considered “one drink” can vary greatly. For example, a 16-ounce pint of a high-alcohol IPA at an Alameda microbrewery can have twice the alcohol of a can of light beer.

Impairment to the Body is the Same


The main cause of impairment is ethyl alcohol or ethanol in an alcoholic beverage. Ethanol has a significant impact on the body and can result in:

  • Slowed reaction times,
  • Impaired coordination,
  • Trouble concentrating,
  • Impaired perception,
  • Loss of critical judgment,
  • Irritability,
  • Reduced inhibitions, and
  • Mood changes.

The level of impairment is primarily based on the amount of ethyl alcohol consumed, not the type of drink involved. It is not “safer” to drive on any type of alcohol or another. It is only safer to drive without drinking.

Alameda County  and Contra Costa County DUI Defense by Lynn Gorelick

Even if you feel differently after drinking wine or beer or mixed drinks, it may depend on the blood test to determine whether you were driving under the influence in California. You may feel totally fine to drive but if you have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, that is a per se DUI in California.

However, just because a blood test comes back over the legal limit does not mean that you are guilty of drunk driving. Breath and blood tests can be inaccurate and show a higher BAC than the driver's actual alcohol level. Talk to your East Bay DUI defense lawyer about the chemical tests in your case and how to challenge those results in court.

East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 30 years of DUI experience and understands how chemical testing mistakes can cause innocent people to be accused of a crime. If you are facing charges for a DUI in Contra Costa County or Alameda County, contact East Bay DUI lawyer Lynn Gorelick today.

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