Exactly How Drunk Are We?

BACtrack’s annual report uses Breathalyzer data to prove we’re actually pretty smart about consumption—and that folks down South can’t keep up.
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BACtrack’s annual report uses Breathalyzer data to prove we’re actually pretty smart about consumption—and that folks down South can’t keep up.
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The men behind BACtrack, manufacturer of breathalyzers for both civilian and professional use, know more about America’s drinking habits than any proprietor of any sports bar in any domestic terminal in any airport in any city in any state. The company’s two most popular products are BACtrack Mobile and BACtrack Vio, which allow users to quickly and easily estimate their BACs, and (not incidentally) create a giant pool of data from which the company can sip. This year’s annual report, the product of 300,000 unique BAC tests, reads like a worse-for-the-wear State of the Union.

Here’s what you need to know about alcohol consumption in the last remaining superpower:

1)Northerners Drink More

Folks who live in colder parts of the country love to put on a whiskey sweater. Consumption in the north – particularly during the winter – is considerably higher than average. Reassuringly named BACtrack President Keith Nothacker has a simple theory as to why this is the case: “While there is no way to know for sure, a probable guess is that people are stuck inside more often due to weather and drink as a way to socialize.”

2)Americans Are Always Looking for an Excuse to Drink

Several major holidays that often involve alcohol consumption occur between December and March, including New Year’s Eve, St. Patrick’s Day and the Super Bowl, which isn’t exactly a holiday, but really is. “New Year’s Eve is the biggest drinking day of the year with an average BAC of 0.094%,” says Nothacker. Holidays drive the average BAC up to above .06% between December 1 and March 1. That doesn’t necessarily mean Americans are drinking more often, just that they’re drinking considerably more. Here’s a different way of looking at it: 14 of the 15 biggest drinking days of the year, all of which have an average BAC above the legal limit, fall between December and March.

Basically, America currently has a hangover and could really use an ibuprofen the size of Connecticut.

3)Blue-Collar Cities Drink More

The report found that the top three cities with the highest average BACs were Waltham, Massachusetts (0.133), Jersey City, New Jersey (0.132) and Champlin, Minnesota (0.124). Those are all former industrial centers with largely middle-class populations. The next two on the list? New Orleans, Louisiana (0.123%) and Greenville, South Carolina (0.111). The first is a drinking destination and the second may be the best beer town on Earth.

4)New Hampshire Drinks Less Than Utah

The Yanks bundled up in their cabins may just be less interested in quantifying their drunkenness, but according to BACtrack data, they’re being out-consumed by Utahans, many of whom are Mormon and don’t drink. This will presumably change if the Bruins win the Stanley Cup.

5) Americans Are Smarter Than You’d Think About Drinking

Once drinkers surpass the 0.06% threshold (called the “Point of Diminishing Returns”), research shows that the depressant effects of alcohol, such as fatigue, lack of balance and poor coordination, begin to kick in and drinkers are more likely to appear “drunk” to those around them. They are also more likely to have horrible hangovers. BACtrack numbers show that a lot of us are good at staying in that happy place.

6) Quantifying Drinking Is Really Hard

The Numbers indicate that Columbus, Ohio, is one of the driest cities in America. There is absolutely no way that’s true. We’ve been to Columbus.

Photos by Getty Images