How long after drinking can you drive?

by Vivien Mah    

How long after drinking can you drive?

When you have to ask yourself “When can I drive after drinking?”, it’s probably a good indication that you aren’t okay to drive. Here’s how to find out when you can drive after drinking.

Research shows that two out of five Australians underestimate their blood alcohol content (BAC). Even when you feel like you can drive after a night of partying and drinking, chances are you can’t.

Alcohol is a depressant that slows your responses. It affects alertness, perception, reaction, and motor skills. How much it affects you depends on how many standard drinks you have downed at a given time. Accidents or mishaps can happen to you, your passengers, or to innocent strangers once you underestimate the alcohol’s hold on you.

So to know how long after drinking is safe to drive, be a responsible adult and prevent any unfortunate incidents by understanding how to estimate your BAC and how alcohol is metabolised. Read on to find out the answer for “when can I drive after drinking?”.



Check your BAC using a breathalyser. There are different kinds of breathalysers depending on your preferences and budget, and they are worth the investment to give you an indication of your BAC so you can make an informed decision.


The legal BAC limit varies in different countries. In Australia, the legal limit for most drivers is 0.05 %BAC. While that is the case, it doesn’t mean that you are physically and mentally safe to drive just because your breathalyser shows that you are under the legal limit.

There are many factors that affect how alcohol affects your body. More importantly, even a little bit of alcohol affects your ability to react and make decisions. The best time to drive is when you have zero alcohol in your system.


If you ever thought that drinking liters of water or resting with a cup of coffee would speed up alcohol’s exit from your system, you were wrong. Avoid believing these alcohol myths. Know your alcohol facts so that you can be smarter and more responsible when it comes to drinking alcohol.

It is important to note that alcohol affects each person differently. Two people can drink the same amount of alcohol but have different BACs. Factors such as weight, gender, height, and liver health can affect how the body processes alcohol.

On average, alcohol is metabolised at 10 ml/hour. This is roughly the size of a standard 285 ml beer or 100 ml glass of wine. On a rough guide, this means that you shouldn’t drive for at least seven hours after enjoying seven glasses of wine.

However, keep in mind that different drinks have different amounts of alcohol content. That’s why it’s important as well to know how many standard drinks you consume each time.

Additionally, the factors previously mentioned can greatly affect the metabolic rate thus extending the number of hours you shouldn’t drive. If you’ve had a lot to drink on a night out, your BAC may be over 0.05 even on the morning after!


So when you ask yourself “When can I drive after drinking?”, consider the factors discussed above. Understand that it’s not just the number of hours that tell you how long after drinking can you drive, but a matter of whether there is still alcohol in your system that will influence your ability to drive. Remember that even a little bit of alcohol can affect your ability to drive safely.

Breathalysers, BAC calculators, and understanding your body’s alcohol metabolism are all only guides. These tools are there to help you estimate the alcohol content in your system, but they are not tools to drink and drive.

Remember that drinking under the influence of alcohol is unsafe and illegal! It’s safest to drive when you have zero alcohol in your body. If you’ve had alcohol, don’t drive.



Are you ok to drive? Commuting behaviour and blood alcohol concentrations among restaurant diners. (2017):

How Long Until I'm (Really) Sober Enough to Drive. (2014):

Drink Driving Limits: How long you should wait before you drive the next morning. (2018):

Blood Alcohol Level Chart: Are You Too Drunk To Legally Drive. (2018):

Blood alcohol limits. (2016):

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for general reference only. Please seek advice from professionals according to your needs.