Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) Level

Blood alcohol content or BAC refers to the amount of alcohol contained in a person's blood. It is measured as weight per unit of volume. A breathalyzer or alcohol detector are scientific instruments that can measure BAC accurately. Typically this measurement is converted to a percentage such as 0.10%, which indicates that one-tenth of a percent of a person's blood is alcohol. Alcohol in the blood travels directly to the brain and affects cognitive functions such as motor skills, resulting in increased risk of injury. The most common and often times significant injury is the risk of a motor vehicle crash when a person drives with too great a concentration of alcohol in his or her system.

In the United States it is illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.08% or higher. On October 1, 1993 the legal BAC limit was reduced from 0.10%. All States have now lowered the legal limit to 0.08%.

Research on the effects of alcohol has found that many important cognitive functions involved in driving (e.g., information processing, decision making, eye-hand coordination) are at least somewhat degraded in many individuals at BACs as low as 0.04%. Although it is not known how much any of these functions contribute to driving, other evidence obtained from carefully designed, case-control studies of drivers involved in crashes indicates that at BACs above 0.08%, the risk of a crash begins to increase sharply

Highest recorded blood alcohol level

In 1995, a man in Wroclaw, Poland, had a car accident. At the hospital, his BAC was determined to be 1.48%. Concerned that their equipment was malfunctioning, doctors also performed five separate lab tests, all of which confirmed the man's blood alcohol content. He died a few days later from wounds from the car accident. Police were baffled as to how an individual could attain such a high blood alcohol. Later, police discussions with his brother in-law revealed that he had "beer bonged" pure grain alcohol allegedly stolen from his place of work, a chemical plant.
In December 2004, a man was admitted to the hospital in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, after being struck by a car. After detecting a strong alcohol odor, doctors at a hospital conducted a breath test which displayed the man's blood alcohol content at 0.914. The man was treated for serious injuries sustained in the crash and survived.
In February 2005, French gendarmes from Bourg-en-Bresse, France, conducted a breath test on a man who had lost control of his car. He had an alcohol content of 0.976. He was not injured in the accident but was charged with a €150 fine and his driving license was canceled.

There have been reported cases of blood alcohol content higher than 1.00. In March 2009, a 45-year-old man was admitted to the hospital in Skierniewice, Poland, after being struck by a car. The blood test showed blood alcohol content at 1.23. The man survived but did not remember either the accident or the circumstances of his alcohol consumption. One such case was reported by O'Neil, and others in 1984. They report on a 30-year-old man who survived a blood alcohol concentration of 1,500 mg/100 ml blood after vigorous medical intervention.
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Effects of blood alcohol content on thinking, feeling and behavior:

BAC (%) Stage Clinical Symptoms
0.01 - 0.05 Subclinical Behavior basically normal by ordinary observation.
0.03 - 0.12 Euphoria Mild euphoria, sociability, talkativeness, increased self-confidence; decreased inhibitions. Diminution of attention, judgment and control. Beginning of sensory-motor impairment. Loss of efficiency in finer performance tests.
0.09 - 0.25 Excitement Emotional instability; loss of critical judgment. Impairment of perception, memory and comprehension. Decreased sensitory response; increased reaction time. Reduced visual acuity; peripheral vision and glare recovery. Sensory-motor in-coordination; impaired balance. Drowsiness.
0.18 - 0.30 Confusion Disorientation, mental confusion; dizziness. Exaggerated emotional states. Disturbances of vision and of perception of color, form, motion and dimensions. Increased pain threshold. Increased muscular in-coordination; staggering gait; slurred speech. Apathy, lethargy.
0.25 - 0.40 Stupor General inertia; approaching loss of motor functions. Markedly decreased response to stimuli. Marked muscular in-coordination; inability to stand or walk. Vomiting; incontinence. Impaired consciousness; sleep or stupor.
0.35 - 0.50 Coma Complete unconsciousness. Depressed or abolished reflexes. Subnormal body temperature. Incontinence. Impairment of circulation and respiration. Possible death.
0.45 + Death Death from respiratory arrest.

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