How Much Can You Drink and Drive in BC in 2023

Drink and drive laws in BC Canada

The legal alcohol limit for drinking and driving in BC is based on the alcohol concentration in your bloodstream. In BC, the permissible blood-alcohol concentration is below 50 mg or 0.05% gram, equivalent to two bottles of beer.

Driving when intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol or drugs is one of the main causes of fatality on the road. Regrettably, an average of 65 fatalities involving drunk driving in British Columbia happen each year. 

British Columbia and Canada have laws prohibiting driving while intoxicated. Often, only British Columbia law applies. In certain situations, federal law (the Criminal Code) supersedes or is in addition to BC law.

Driving after drinking is not forbidden. However, you are breaking the law if alcohol or drugs even mildly impair your driving ability.

Before we get into the technicalities of how much alcohol is permitted while driving, please remember that the objective of this post is only for information purposes. It shouldn’t be considered an endorsement to drink a certain quantity and drive. We do not urge anyone to drive with any amount of alcohol in their blood.

Even if you only consume the legal quantity of alcohol, we strongly suggest you use a taxi, Uber, or designated driver services.

It’s also advisable to stay up to date on drink-drive rules by visiting the official province of BC website. 

Legal Alcohol Limit When Driving in BC

While some people strongly advocate sobriety, the law permits a small amount of alcohol to be consumed before driving.

The legal alcohol limit for drinking and driving in BC is based on the alcohol concentration in your bloodstream. In BC, the permissible blood-alcohol concentration is below 50 mg.

The effects of alcohol vary for each individual. A study found that a man weighing 140 pounds (63 kilograms) who consumed one standard drink within one hour may have a blood alcohol content of around 0.03 gram%.

A standard drink is equal to 1.5 oz. of 80-proof liquor (40% alcohol), 12 oz. beer (4.5% alcohol), or 5 oz. wine (12% alcohol).

However, a lady weighing 140 lbs. (63 kilograms) would have a blood alcohol level of 0.12 gram% after consumption of similar quantities of alcohol at the same duration.

A typical drink typically takes one to two hours for most people to absorb. Therefore, it will take three to six hours to remain under BC’s drink-drive limit if you’ve had one to two standard drinks.

However, remember that even after you stop drinking, your blood alcohol level could increase for another three hours. Regrettably, there is no way to accelerate the rate at which your body eliminates alcohol from your system.

While the mentioned processing of alcohol can help you to gauge your blood alcohol, it is not reliable as alcohol have different effects on people. The best method to determine your blood alcohol content is to utilize an alcohol breathalyzer

Drink and Drive Punishment in BC

As previously mentioned, the permissible blood-alcohol concentration is below 50 mg.

Due to the average of 65 drunk driving fatalities in British Columbia each year, the government must take legislative action to address the problem.

BC has the strictest alcohol and driving laws in Canada. If you are found driving while intoxicated, you may face the following penalties:

  • Driving rights are suspended for a period of time between 24 and 90 days.
  • Vehicle impoundment
  • Paying fines ranging from $600 to $4,060.
  • Prison time
  • Mandatory rehab
  • Placement of a car’s ignition interlock
  • You may also need to pay a Driver Risk Premium along with your insurance premiums.

You are probably in violation of your insurance policy if you have an accident while driving drunk. That implies that if you harm someone else or destroy their property, you may be personally liable for any associated costs.

Here are more details about punishments and prohibitions for drinking and driving in BC:

24-Hour Driving Prohibitions

The police can impose a 24-hour license suspension if they have reasonable reasons to think that drinking or drugs impaired your ability to drive and you were in charge of a vehicle.

If this happens, you must forfeit your driver’s license. You can only get it back once your prohibition period is complete. Your prohibition begins the moment you get your Notice of Driving Prohibition, which is effective for 24 hours.

ICBC will get a copy of your ban notice from the police. The prohibition will be permanently recorded on your record. RoadSafetyBC may take it into account when reviewing your driving record. Additional punishments under the Driver Improvement Program may be imposed following a review.

The police are not required to request:

  • A breath sample to assess your blood alcohol level, or
  • A physical coordination test.

However, if you believe alcohol has not impaired your driving ability, you can request that police test your blood alcohol content using an approved screening instrument.

3-, 7-, 30- and 90-Day Driving Prohibitions

If police discover that alcohol has impaired your driving ability, they can impose a 3-, 7-, 30-, or 90-day restriction.

A driver may be required to produce a breath sample on an authorized screening device if:

  • You had driven or been in charge of a vehicle.
  • They have cause to believe you have alcohol in your system.
  • They have a piece of approved screening equipment on hand.

If you deliver a breath sample resulting in a Notice of Prohibition, the police should give you another chance. The second breath sample must be collected using a different certified screening instrument. If the two results are different, the lower result takes precedence.

If the device indicates that your sample has a blood-alcohol concentration of at least 0.05, police may:

  • Get your driver’s license.
  • Issue a Notice of Driving Prohibition. Your restriction will begin immediately. Previous prohibitions determine its length.

The prohibitions may vary as follows:

  • If it’s your first time in the Warn range, you’ll be banned for three days.
  • If you’ve been in the Warn range twice in the last five years, you’ll face a seven-day driving ban.
  • If you’ve been in the Warn range three times in the last five years, you’ll face a 30-day driving ban.

If the device displays Fail, it means that your sample contains at least 80 milligrams of alcohol. Thus, the police may:

  • Get your driver’s license.
  • You will be issued a Notice of Driving Prohibition. Your restriction will begin immediately. Thus, you must refrain from driving for 90 days.

Alternatively, the police may also opt to:

90-Day Administrative Driving Prohibitions

The police may issue you an administrative driving ban if:

  • Your blood alcohol concentration was 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood or higher.
  • Your blood drug concentration was equivalent to or higher than the quantity specified in the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations for that substance.
  • You were under the influence of both alcohol and drug within two hours of operating a motor vehicle, and your combined blood alcohol and drug concentration were equal to or greater than the limit stated under the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations.

You must attend court if you are charged with a violation under the Criminal Code. You risk receiving additional criminal conviction driving bans if you are found guilty. Also, you also have to pay a Driver Risk Premium.

When Can You Drink and Drive in BC?

Again, alcohol effects may vary for each person. While the information below is based on studies, it does not apply to everyone. Each one of us has different alcohol tolerance, and our bodies process alcohol differently. You can check more in this BAC calculator.

How Many Beers Can You Drink and Drive in BC?

A 140-pound (63 kilograms) man who drank four beers (80 proof = 40% alcohol) could have a blood alcohol concentration of roughly 0.11 gram%. On the other hand, a 140-pound woman (63 kilograms) who consumed the same amount may have a 0.13 gram% blood alcohol level.

How Much Wine Can You Drink and Drive in BC?

Drinking four glasses of wine may bring 0.11% blood alcohol content to a man weighing 140 pounds (63 kilograms). A 140-pound (63 kilograms) woman who drank the same amount may have 0.13% alcohol in her bloodstream. 

How Many Shots of Vodka or Whiskey Can You Drink and Drive in BC?

A male weighing 140 pounds (63 kilograms) may have a 0.11% blood alcohol level after drinking four ounces of spirits (100 proof = 50% alcohol). On the other hand, a 140-pound (63 kilograms) lady who consumed the same amount could have 0.13% alcohol in her system.

Stick to Drink and Drive Laws in BC

It is everyone’s obligation to return home safely. When you drink and drive, you endanger not just your own life but also the lives of those on the road. There is no reason to drive while intoxicated, as there are various ways to get home safely.

While there is an allowable blood alcohol level to drive, it is still best to not drive at all, even if you only had a few shots or bottles. Get a designated driver instead of drinking and driving. Suppose no one is available to be a designated driver. In that case, you can leave your car at home overnight and consider taking a cab, utilizing public transportation, using a ride-hailing service, or phoning a friend.

If you must really drive, make sure it’s a permitted quantity based on the latest legislation on the official state or province website. Always use a proper breathalyzer to determine the amount of alcohol in your blood correctly.

About the author

Ashley Cresswell

Ashley Cresswell is a former phlebotomist with a passion for road safety. During her time as a phlebotomist, Ashley administered over 1000 blood alcohol tests to impaired drivers and was shocked to discover that many of them were simply uninformed about the legal limits for driving under the influence. As a result, Ashley conducted extensive research on scientific studies and local laws to bring drivers a comprehensive resource on drink and drive limits from around the world.

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