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Quick Tips: How Long Should You Wait to Drive After Drinking?

Quick Tips: How Long Should You Wait to Drive After Drinking?

how long after drinking can you drive

Last Updated on March 13, 2024

It’s a common situation- you’re enjoying a night out with friends, a glass of wine at dinner, or a couple of beers at a barbecue. 

But when the night winds down, a crucial question arises: How long should you wait to drive after drinking? Understanding the balance between social drinking and responsible behavior is key to not only staying within the law but also ensuring everyone’s safety.

Waiting to Drive (or Not Driving at All) is Crucial For Safety

Alcohol significantly affects your body, slowing down your reaction times and impairing your judgment. The risk isn’t worth it—not for you, not for others. It’s not just about avoiding a DUI; it’s about preventing accidents that could change lives forever, as well ensuring your relationship with alcohol doesn’t become a dangerous one.

Understanding Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)

Your BAC measures the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream, with legal limits typically set around 0.08% in many places. But even small amounts can impair your ability to drive safely. 

Knowing your why for drinking, and how alcohol impacts your mind and body can help you make informed decisions about driving after a night out. The best solution is to not drink at all when you know you’re going to be driving. Instead, opt for taking a cab or public transit instead if you plan a drinking night. 

If you must drive, make sure you practice mindful drinking and stay hydrated

How Does Your Body Metabolize Alcohol?

On average, the human body metabolizes one standard alcoholic drink per hour. This is a rate of about 0.015g of alcohol per hour. This means that if your BAC reaches 0.08%, it would take roughly 5-6 hours to metabolize all the alcohol. However, this can vary widely based on several factors. So even though the legal limit might be 0.08% for many cities, it’s important to recognize that this is not exactly a small amount of alcohol. 

Practice safe drinking practices and learn how to better moderate your alcohol consumption here. 

Factors Influencing Alcohol Absorption and Metabolism

Your weight, the amount and type of food you’ve consumed, and your individual alcohol tolerance all play roles in how quickly your body processes alcohol. These factors can significantly impact how long you should wait before driving.

Take a look at this guide on how to flush alcohol out of your system. 

The Legalities Around Drinking and Driving

The consequences of driving under the influence can be severe, including fines, license suspension, and even jail time. The legal implications alone should give anyone pause before deciding to drive after drinking. If you think you need support with AUD (Alcohol Use Disorder) be sure to speak to your doctor. 

Read more about common questions around alcohol health here. Or take Sunnyside’s quiz to learn about how to start drinking less now. 

Take the 3-min Quiz

Tips for Drinking Mindfully And Getting Home Safe After Drinking

When in doubt, wait it out. It’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to alcohol and driving. Your safety and the safety of others are paramount.

Here are some recommendations on staying safe the next time you hit the bars. 

Alternatives to Driving After A Night of Drinking

There are many safe alternatives to driving after drinking. Rideshare apps, public transportation, or a designated driver can ensure you get home safely without putting yourself or others at risk.

Ask a Sunnyside Coach for Help

Apps like Sunnyside are designed to help you be more mindful about your drinking. Mindful drinking simply means understanding your why behind consuming alcohol, and taking intentional steps towards improving your relationship with drinking. 

Sunnyside is the #1 app for moderation and mindfulness around alcohol. It uses habit science to help you gradually drink less over time. Most people see a 30% reduction in the number of drinks consumed in the first 30 days.

On top of that, the community is highly engaged and supportive of one another. Here are some examples of what members in the community have said about using Sunnyside to improve their drinking habits.

Listen to Your Body Before Choosing To Drive

Only you know your body well. If you feel impaired, dizzy, or just not yourself, it’s a sign you’re not ready to drive. Trust your instincts—they’re usually right.

Regardless of BAC, opt to not drive at all if you’re not sure. When in doubt, call a cab or find another way home. 

If you notice yourself, or someone you know is exhibiting these signs of visible intoxication

The Role of Peer Pressure and Social Drinking Pressure

It can be tough to say no when everyone else is saying yes, but standing firm on not driving after drinking is a matter of safety. Your true friends will understand and support your decision.

Read this guide on tips to communicate with your friends about your mindful drinking choices

Planning Ahead

A bit of planning can go a long way in avoiding the temptation to drive after drinking. Arrange for a ride before you start drinking, so you’re not left making decisions under the influence. 

In addition, making a plan in advance of how much you are allowing yourself to drink is a smart way to keep yourself accountable. Create a free plan with Sunnyside here

Read Sunnyside’s Blog For More Helpful Resources

Sunnyside’s blog is a great resource to help you drink responsibly and understand more about alcohol’s effects on the body and mind. Visit to start building a better relationship with alcohol. 


Deciding to wait before driving after drinking is a responsible choice that safeguards your life and the lives of others. By understanding the effects of alcohol, knowing your limits, and planning ahead, you can enjoy social events safely and without regret.


How does alcohol affect my driving ability?

Alcohol impairs your reaction times, coordination, and judgment, making it dangerous to drive.

What if I only had one drink?

Even one drink can affect your ability to drive safely. It’s best to wait or use an alternative way to get home.

Can coffee or a cold shower sober me up faster?

No, only time can lower your BAC and reduce alcohol’s effects on your body.

Is it safe to drive in the morning after drinking?

Depending on how much you drank, you might still be over the legal limit the next morning. It’s important to assess how you feel and consider waiting longer.

Where can I find more information on responsible drinking? offers valuable resources and tools for understanding and managing your alcohol consumption responsibly. Visit the blog for more useful tips. 

Sources – Data and Surveillance Needs and Opportunities – Driving under the influence of alcohol: frequency, reasons – Drunk Driving | Statistics and Resources – Strategies to Reduce or Prevent Alcohol-Impaired Driving – Reducing Alcohol-Impaired Driving: Lessons from a Global Perspective – Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol and Illicit Drugs

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