If you’ve had a few glasses of wine at a party, you may be concerned about stepping behind the wheel of a car – and for good reason. Even low levels of alcohol can reduce the ability to react appropriately to another car or pedestrian. The consequences of “drunk” driving can be traumatic and long lasting. This is why it’s so important to be aware of how much alcohol you can safely drink without fear of becoming an irresponsible or even worse, deadly driver. How long do alcohol content levels stay high after having a drink and when can you reasonably expect your blood level of alcohol to drop?

Although the rate at which the blood level of alcohol drops varies from individual to individual, in general, it takes a little over three hours for the body to process a large glass of wine and about two hours for the body to metabolize a pint of beer. Keep in mind that the blood level of alcohol a person has after drinking can vary considerably depending upon their liver function, metabolic rate, and tolerance to alcohol. Alcohol content levels also can be affected by how much food was eaten with the alcohol, how rapidly the drink was consumed, what medications were taken that day, as well as the presence of any other underlying medical conditions.

Although this gives you a general guideline as to how long you can expect your blood level of alcohol to remain elevated after drinking, it’s important to err on the side of caution and take whatever steps necessary to reduce the risk of intoxication. Alcohol should always be consumed with food to help slow down absorption and should be drunk as slowly as possible, preferably by taking small sips. Never leave a party or gathering immediately after consuming a drink. It’s best to wait at least an hour to allow your blood level of alcohol to drop and to be sure you’re not intoxicated. Even better, don’t take any chances and have a designated driver if you plan on drinking any alcohol.

Keep in mind when you attend a party, it’s not necessary to have alcohol to enjoy it. The safest way to prevent a high blood level of alcohol is to substitute fruit juice mixed with seltzer water for alcoholic beverages. If you do want a taste of wine or alcohol, have one alcoholic drink and sip fruit juice spritzers after it’s gone. It’ll feel good to wake up in the morning without a hangover. Plus, you’ll have benefited from all of the antioxidants in the fruit juice!