Top 10 DMV Questions – Alcohol

Woman with wine glas - Photo by Mahrael Boutros

DMV Questions about Alcohol and Drugs

Basically all states may ask questions about alcohol, drugs, and consequences of impaired driving on the official knowledge test.

The most common questions deals with the legal limit, which is .08% in almost all states. The one exception that stands out at this moment is Utah. In December 2018, Utah became the first state to change the legal limit from 0.08% to 0.05%.

#1. It is illegal for a person 21 years of age or older to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that is:

  A. 0.02% – Two hundredths of one percent or higher
  B. 0.05% – Five hundredths of one percent or higher
  C. 0.08% – Eight hundredths of one percent or higher

Correct answer is: C. 0.08% (in most states).

Alcohol and driving - legal limits

What is the Legal Limit?

When you are arrested for driving under influence or driving intoxicated, police may ask to measure the amount of alcohol or existence of any drugs in your system.

By law, you are required to comply with such a request. It is known as the Implied Consent Law.

Chemical testing of the blood, breath, or urine determines a Blood Alcohol Content/Concentration, known as BAC. If the content is .08% or more (.05% in Utah), you have broken the law and may face charges according to the rules in your state. No other proof of impaired driving is needed. This is known as a “per se” conviction. The BAC level is enough to prove that you were driving under the influence (DUI).

States may have different types of alcohol and drug-related violations.

In New York, as an example, you may be charged with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) if your BAC is .08% or higher.

If your BAC is between .05% and .07% in New York, you may be charged with Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol (DWAI/Alcohol). Obviously, consequences are less severe if you are convicted of DWAI/Alcohol than if you are convicted of DWI.

Different Limits Depending on License and/or Age

  If you hold a commercial driver license (CDL), the legal limit is .04%.

This level is established by FMCSA for anyone who is required to have a CDL and is operating a commercial motor vehicle. If convicted, the driver is subject to the disqualification sanctions in the Federal regulations in addition to state penalties.

  If you are a minor, you may face penalties even with small traces of alcohol in your blood.

All states have a Zero-Tolerance law for underage DUI offenses. The level is between .00 (any trace) and .02%, depending on state (see table below).

On a permit test for minors, DMV may ask about the state’s zero tolerance law, so checkout the correct answer in your state.

The important thing to remember is, of course, that in United States the legal drinking age is 21 years, meaning that you may face consequences regardless of the BAC level if an officer can prove that you have been drinking alcohol.

If your BAC level is at or over the legal limit for adults, you will face charges according to those statues (which are much more severe).


State Zero Tolerance Level
Alabama 0.02
Alaska 0
Arizona 0
Arkansas 0.02
California 0.02
Colorado 0.02
Connecticut 0.02
Delaware 0.02
District of Columbia 0
Florida 0.02
Georgia 0.02
Hawaii 0.02
Idaho 0.02
Illinois 0
Indiana 0.02
Iowa 0.02
Kansas 0.02
Kentucky 0.02
Louisiana 0.02
Maine 0
Maryland 0.02
Massachusetts 0.02
Michigan 0.02
Minnesota 0
Mississippi 0.02
Missouri 0.02
Montana 0.02
Nebraska 0.02
Nevada 0.02
New Hampshire 0.02
New Jersey 0.01
New Mexico 0.02
New York 0.02
North Carolina 0
North Dakota 0.02
Ohio 0.02
Oklahoma 0.02
Oregon 0
Pennsylvania 0.02
Rhode Island 0.02
South Carolina 0.02
South Dakota 0.02
Tennessee 0.02
Texas 0.02
Utah 0.02
Vermont 0.02
Virginia 0.02
Washington 0.02
West Virginia 0.02
Wisconsin 0.02
Wyoming 0.02

Understand the “Per Se” Expression

“Per Se” is Latin and means “by itself”.

A BAC level at or over a legal limit is “by itself” enough proof of impaired driving.

This does NOT mean that you cannot be convicted of impaired driving just because your BAC is below the legal limit.

If there are other evidence of intoxication, a police officer may still charge you with a DUI or DWI. Such evidence is often collected with a field sobriety test (FST) or other circumstances.

Field Sobriety Tests

The model system for managing field sobriety tests is developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The tests are often used just to establish a probable cause for arrest and determine if a blood or urine test should be taken.

A probable cause for arrest is necessary to invoke the Implied Consent Law.

judge with gavel

More about the Laws

#2. Penalties for driving under the influence of drugs are:

  A. The same as for alcohol
  B. More severe than for alcohol
  C. Less severe than for alcohol

Correct answer is: A. The same as for alcohol.

The typical state law states:

a) A person shall not drive any vehicle while:
1. the alcohol concentration in such person’s blood or breath is 0.08 or more;
2. the alcohol concentration in such person’s blood or breath as measured within (two) hours of the time of driving is 0.08 or more;
3. under the influence of alcohol;
4. under the influence of any drug or combination of drugs to a degree which renders such person incapable of safely driving; or,
5. under the combined influence of alcohol and any drug or drugs to a degree that renders such person incapable of safely driving
c) A person convicted of violating subsection (a) shall be punished as follows:

The law makes no difference between alcohol and drugs, or any combination of the two.

Consequences and Penalties

Questions about the exact penalties for DUI convictions are not common on DMV tests.

You should, however, know that penalties are severe, and a conviction can be costly. Your license will most likely be taken away for a specific period (suspended) and you may also face jailtime.

The typical state law states:

1. For a first offense, a person shall be sentenced to imprisonment for not less than (ten) days or more than (one year) or to pay a fine of not less than ($250) nor more than ($1,000) or to both such imprisonment and fine. The department shall suspend the person’s license for (180) days.
2. For a second or subsequent conviction within (five) years, a person shall be sentenced to imprisonment for not less than (90) days nor more than (one year) and shall pay a fine of not less than ($500) nor more than ($1,000). The department shall revoke the person’s license for (one year).

*Fines and suspension/revocation periods are examples only. They vary by state.

Accident - Copyright: Tracy Fox

Why You Must Learn about the Effects of Alcohol

Alcohol and driving simply don’t mix.

A scary 30 percent of all road fatalities involve alcohol. Therefore anyone applying for a driver’s license or learner’s permit must be aware of the effects of alcohol.

In some states, like Florida, applicants must complete a drug and alcohol awareness course before they can get a permit.

In other states, like Tennessee, there are many questions on the DMV knowledge test focusing on alcohol or drugs.

It doesn’t matter if you are a person who drinks alcohol or not, alcohol use is a concern for all road users and all holders of a driver’s license. You must have a good understanding of how alcohol affects a driver for your DMV test, so don’t skip this part in the handbook. You can expect questions on the DMV test to deal with attitudes, myths, and hard facts about alcohol use.

#3. What is alcohol?

  A. A stimulant.
  B. An antihistamine.
  C. A depressant

Correct answer is: C. A depressant.

Brain in a glass -

Alcohol is a Depressant

Most people believe that alcohol is a stimulant, but it isn’t.

Alcohol is a depressant drug. It depresses the central nervous system, which means that alcohol slows you down.

Why is this important?

Well it tells you that you will not react as fast as you usually do. Everything you do takes just a little bit longer and your ability to coordinate decline.

Judgment is the First to Go

When you drink, alcohol reaches your brain very quickly. The first thing affected by alcohol are those areas in the brain that are involved in inhibiting behaviors. You may feel more confident and talk more. You become less aware of your surroundings and will lose some of your ability to concentrate.

All of which are signs of a fading judgment.

After only one drink, you will have difficulties judging distances and the speed of other vehicles; skills that are necessary for safe driving. Your reflexes, reaction time, and vision are also affected when you continue drinking.

Since your judgment is also affected, you might not even be aware of that your driving skills are affected. You think you can still drive safely, when in reality, you can’t.

#4. Which is true about alcohol?

  A. Alcohol affects your judgment and skills necessary for safe driving
  B. Alcohol helps you stay awake and active
  C. Alcohol makes you more confident and a better driver

Correct answer is: A. Alcohol affects your judgment and skills necessary for safe driving.

Drinking Alcohol - Photo credit: Piotr Marcinski

How Much Can You Drink?

The amount of alcohol in your blood depends on and changes with your body weight, time spent drinking, and – of course – the amount of alcohol that you consume.

When two people weigh the same, the percentage of body fat can also make a difference . Therefore women often will raise their blood alcohol content (BAC) faster than men.

In general, one standard drink raises your BAC to .02 percent.

People who weigh less may reach .03 or .04 after only one drink. This is especially true about women.

After two drinks driving skills are significantly affected. After three or four drinks, some drivers are already over the legal limit and may be arrested for drunk driving.

The best thing to remember is that the only safe driving BAC is .00%.

What Will Help You Sober Up?

#5. The alcohol concentration in your blood will be reduced only by:

  A. Fresh air
  B. Time
  C. Black coffee or cold showers

Correct answer is: B. Time

This question targets one of the most common myths about alcohol. The plain and simple answer is time!

Sobering up is a slow process. The liver can only get rid of about one drink per hour. This rate cannot be increased by drinking coffee, taking vitamins, exercising, taking a cold shower or anything else.

Cup of Coffee - Photo Credit: Toshihiro Oimatsu

Myths about Sobering Up Quickly

The following are some of the most common myths:

Myth: “One of most effective ways to sober up in a hurry is by eating something. Some foods work better than others, such as foods which contain a large amount of grease.” We copied this from It is a totally useless advice.

Fact: Food in your stomach causes alcohol to be absorbed more slowly and may slightly increase the rate of alcohol metabolism . It will not help to get rid of alcohol once it is in your blood.

Myth: “A good trick is to drink plenty of coffee”.

Fact: Coffee may help you feel awake and more alert, but your blood alcohol content (BAC) is not reduced by drinking coffee or plenty of water.

Myth: “It may be the last thing you want to do but getting moving will help you to sober up quickly. Exercise helps keep your body awake and alert and metabolize the alcohol more quickly.” (We copied this from – an equally useless advice.)

Fact: Again, you may feel awake and more alert, but exercise does not change the rate at which your enzymes are breaking down alcohol. No physical exercise can reliably reduce alcohol in your blood.

Myth: “Sweating it out in a sauna helps!”

Fact: Probably popular in Finland, but it has no effect on your blood alcohol content. Instead, you should drink water to counter alcohol’s dehydrating effects; it will at least make you feel a little bit better the next morning.

For your DMV test you should remember that only time will reduce the amount of alcohol in your body.

Know the Implied Consent Law in Your State

Another common question on the official knowledge tests deals with the implied consent law in your state.

It is important that you understand that by getting a learner’ s permit or driver’s license in any state, you also give consent to certain tests for alcohol or drugs in your blood, breath, or urine.

Your driving privilege implies that you have given such a consent.

If you are stopped by a police officer, arrested for drunk driving, and asked to take a test, you may refuse.

But such a refusal is against the implied consent law and will have serious consequences.

In general, your driver license or permit will be automatically suspended or revoked, even if you aren’t convicted of drunk driving in court.

What Should You Do If You Have Been Drinking

The answer to this question is obvious, isn’t it?

Alcohol and driving, don’t mix – so if you have been drinking, don’t drive!

The best thing to do is to arrange a designated driver, use public transport, or sleep over.

And if a friend has been drinking, the best advice you can give is “Don’t Drive”. Your friend should let someone who hasn’t been drinking drive or find some other way to get home.

Verify What You Have Learned



Well done!

You missed a few here. Do you want more practice?

Check out the state tests below!

#1. Driving under the influence of any drug that makes you drive unsafely is:

Drugs have been shown to impair driving ability. Certain prescribed drugs can cause drowsiness and decreased alertness. Driving under the influence of any drug that makes you drive unsafely is against the law.

#2. A primary factor that affects your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is:

The Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) primarily changes with body weight, time spent drinking, and the amount of alcohol that is consumed. BAC does not depend on what kind of alcoholic beverage you drink, how physically fit you are, or how well you can hold your liquor.

#3. When alcohol is consumed with food:

All the alcohol consumed eventually gets into the blood whether you have eaten or not. Food in the stomach causes alcohol to be absorbed more slowly, slowing down the rate and the amount of intoxication.

#4. If you refuse to take a test to measure how much alcohol is in your system:

If you are placed under arrest and a law enforcement officer asks you to submit to chemical testing and you refuse, the test will not be given. The officer and/or the court will send notification of action to the DMV and your driver license will be taken away (suspended or revoked). The exact consequences varies by state.

#5. Which is a good advice when dealing with driving and social drinking situations?

There are ways of dealing with social drinking situations. One of the most successful programs in recent years has been the designated driver concept, where friends agree ahead of time which person will remain strictly sober. You can also use public transportation or a cab, if available.

#6. Taking a cold shower after drinking alcohol:

The liver can only oxidize about one drink per hour. Contrary to popular belief, this rate cannot be increased by drinking coffee, exercising, taking a cold shower or anything else. Only time can sober a person who’s been drinking. And remember, it is a slow process.

#7. True or false? Any amount of alcohol can affect your driving and can lead to DUI charges.

A driver can register a BAC of .00 percent and still be convicted of DUI. The level of BAC does not clear a driver when it is below .08 percent. The law applies to alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both.

#8. Which will affect you more?

Once in the bloodstream, the alcohol is distributed to all parts of the body, including the brain and liver. Upon reaching the liver, the alcohol immediately begins to be oxidized. However, the liver can only oxidize about one drink per hour. Three drinks in one hour will raise your BAC close to the legal limit.

#9. Which is true about alcohol?

Alcohol is still the most important cause of fatal car accidents. It is the number one killer of persons under the age of 40.

#10. Penalties for driving under the influence of drugs are:

In general, a state’s drunk driving laws are also drug driving laws. Law statutes refer to driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Penalties are the same.

#11. It is illegal for a person 21 years of age or older to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that is:

This question is from the California DMV Test. Correct answer is 0.08%. This does not apply in the state of Utah and may be less correct in states with additional types of alcohol and drug-related violations.

See result

Full DMV Tests for Your State

  More in our series of the most common questions on the DMV test.

Photo credits: Mahrael Boutros, Piotr Marcinski , Toshihiro Oimatsu , and Tracy Fox

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Laila Brown
Laila Brown
4 months ago

Best Test ever!