In the United States, we use BAC (blood alcohol concentration), as a means to judge a person’s possible level of impairment. The percentage of alcohol in an individual’s blood can be accurately measured using a breathalyzer or blood test. The legal limit for operating a motor vehicle is .08%, meaning that the amount of alcohol in a person’s bloodstream must be .08% or less to drive legally.
A BAC of .40% is widely recognized as having the potential to be lethal. Still, some individuals, especially those with a low tolerance for alcohol, may die or have severe health consequences associated with a lower BAC.
But BAC tests aren’t only used by law enforcement looking for drunk drivers. It is also used by ER doctors to determine how much danger a person is in who is highly intoxicated. Although relatively rare compared to, say, opioid overdoses, alcohol poisoning can cause death and kill around 2,200 people each year in the U.S. alone.
The following are cases in which most people survived to have BACs recorded that far surpassed those that would prove lethal for most others.
#9: .90% BAC – Eric Kelly (US)
Eric Kelly is a man who has the unfortunate distinction of having the highest ever recorded BAC of any U.S. male college student. Eric was an undergraduate student of Lock Haven, found by the police presumably stumbling down an avenue. When they administered a breathalyzer test, they were shocked to see that he had registered a BAC of .90%. As a result, he was charged with public drunkenness.
#8: 0.914% BAC – Pyotr Petrov (Bulgaria)
Sixty-seven-year-old Pyotr Petrov got hit by a massive truck in an accident that he should not have survived. However, he survived. Furthermore, his BAC registered above .9% when his blood was taken, which is more than twice the amount considered lethal.
#7: BAC .975% – Unnamed French Man (France)
In 2005, a French man was found in a ditch, alive. When the man in question had his BAC tested, police officers at the scene thought there must have been something wrong with the test when the results came back as nearing 1%. They performed the test again at another lab but got the same result. Therefore, the man was sent to jail for eight months and had his license suspended for three years.
#6: BAC 1.024% – Unnamed Homeless Man (Poland)
Polish winters can be lethally cold, and unfortunately, one way that homeless people in Poland can feel warm is to consume massive amounts of alcohol. One man was found in 2012 by police officers sleeping at a bus depot who was determined to have a BAC of 1.024%.
#5: BAC 1.23% – Unnamed Man Hit By Car (Poland)
A Polish man, aged 45, was walking home on a road when a sober driver hit him. He was rushed to a hospital emergency department where it was revealed that not only did he have a head injury and broken leg, he also had a BAC of 1.23%. On his first day at the hospital, the man could not answer any questions about where he was drinking or remember that he was hit by a car, but after the second day, he was able to go home.
#4: BAC 1.33% – Unnamed UCLA Woman (US)
The highest-ever recorded BAC for an American woman (or any American for that matter) goes to a 24-year-old female admitted to the UCLA hospital in 1982. The L.A. woman checked herself into the hospital and was shockingly found to be “alert and capable of oriented of both person and place.”
#3: 1.400 BAC – Unnamed California Woman (US)
It’s important to stress that most people with BACs as high as these will NOT survive, and, in fact, a large percentage of those with alcohol levels at even half of these amounts will not live to tell the tale. For example, one Californian woman who was found dead tested at a 1.400% BAC during the autopsy. Her cause of death was reported as organ failure.
#2: 1.41% BAC – Unnamed Sheep Thief (South Africa)
The record for the highest BAC ever for a person who recovered belongs to a man known only as the “sheep thief” in South Africa. According to reports, the man was driving a Mercedes-Benz Vito (a light commercial van) with a woman, five boys, and 15 sheep stolen from several local farms when he was arrested. His BAC was approximately 32 times over the legal limit.
#1: 1.480% BAC – Unnamed Polish Man (Poland)
We certainly see a trend here with the Polish, but, surprisingly, Poland isn’t even in the top 10 heaviest drinking countries. In fact, none of these countries are represented in any of these cases.
After a car accident that caused severe injuries, a Polish man’s BAC was measured at 1.480%. This is probably the highest BAC ever recorded in known history. Doctors said he survived his brush with death due to drinking, but he later died due to the injuries associated with the crash.
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