Most people drink for the physical and social effects of alcohol. There is a fine line between allowing alcohol to function as a social lubricant and drinking enough to become impaired. Unfortunately, many people aren’t capable of honestly assessing how their drinking habits affect them.
Research has shown that people frequently underestimate how drunk they are. If you are one of the people who underestimates how alcohol affects you, you might choose to drive yourself home because you don’t think there’s any safety risk.
Even though you think you’re sober, police might find that to not be the case if they pull you over for a traffic stop. What affects your ability to gauge your own impairment?
Most people judge their sobriety based on the people around them
The idea of sobriety or impairment is a spectrum, and where you fall on that spectrum will likely reflect factors beyond just what you’ve been drinking. The environment where you drink and the people around you will influence how drunk you think you are.
Researchers have found that people compare themselves to others nearby. The more drinking your companions do, the more likely you are to underestimate your own level of impairment. If everyone has had a night of heavy drinking, you will probably compare yourself to people far more intoxicated than you are. While you may be more sober than the drunkest person in the room, that doesn’t mean you are sober enough to drive.
What to do instead of comparing your impairment to others’ level of intoxication
It is generally safest to try to track the number of drinks you have and ensure that you give yourself enough time to metabolize the alcohol you consume before you head home. If you don’t have enough time to fully sober up before getting behind the wheel, having a friend drive you home, or ordering a cab or a rideshare service can be a good decision.
If you got behind the wheel and didn’t think you were drunk, only to have officers allege that you were during a traffic stop, it’s possible that issues with chemical testing or with the roadside sobriety test impacted how officers view you and the situation, which might be grounds for a defense. Reviewing the evidence against you with a lawyer can be a first step if you want to fight back against what you believe are wrongful impaired driving charges.