my boss drinks and expects me to drive with him

A reader writes:

I work for a tiny company — the two owners/managers are a married couple and then there’s me and one other employee who are admin.

About once every six weeks, the owners take us out for a fancy lunch downtown. This is considered a perk and a treat but it is definitely compulsory. At the lunch everybody else drinks, not to excess, but definitely two or three glasses of wine each. I don’t drink, but I don’t care if others do. The problem is that our male boss drives us in his car to these lunches and then expects to drive us back to the office afterwards.

I am deeply uncomfortable with this. I’m pretty sure that he’s over the legal limit to drive after most of these lunches. I do not want to get in the car with a drunk driver. The other admin guy agrees that it isn’t ideal but goes along with it because “it’ll probably be fine.”

I am very junior and don’t know how to address this with my bosses. They consider themselves gastronomes and wine aficionados, and I don’t think my boss will take kindly to me insinuating that he isn’t fit to drive.

My only other option for getting back to the office after a lunch is public transit, which would take about twice as long as driving, which would obviously cut into my work time. Or I could take a cab but I don’t earn enough to want to pay for that myself. How do I handle this situation? Apart from this it’s a good job and an entry-level position into an industry I really care about and want to progress in. I’m willing to pay my dues for the experience and to have it on my resume but I don’t want to risk my personal safety.

Yeah, if you think he’s over the legal limit or just under the influence generally, don’t get in that car.

There are a few ways you could handle this.

One is that you could frame this as about you rather than about him — something like, “I’m really, really cautious about this after reading too many horror stories about people who seemed fine to drive but weren’t. I’m sorry, but I have a hard personal rule that I won’t drive with anyone who’s had more than a glass to drink.” So you’re not saying, “You are clearly irresponsible,” but rather, “I just have a personal rule on this.” And then you could say, “Would it be possible for us all to take a cab to these? Or since I don’t drink, I’d be happy to be the driver if you’d be comfortable with me driving your car.”

If he blows off your concerns, you could say, “I really feel strongly about this, and like I said, it’s a personal rule I have. I can take public transit back if that’s the only option — that means I won’t be back at work as quickly, though.”

It’s possible he’s going to think you’re overreacting and/or being too rigid. If so, so be it — we’re talking about safety. But that’s the sort of thing that can then affect you at work — for example, if he feels less comfortable with you, are you going to get less mentoring, less benefit of the doubt, etc.? But you can usually counteract that by making a point of being really warm in other ways. Unless he has huge defensiveness issues about his drinking, that will probably take care of it.

A second option is that you could push your coworker to take more of a stand with you. Point out to him that “it’ll probably be fine” is not a great stance to take with your personal safety — and you should point out that you’re talking about the personal safety of other people on the road too, and it’s not okay to be cavalier about that. Tell him that if you the two of you speak up together, it’s going to be easier than if it’s only one of you. And I think it’s fine to use a little guilt in this situation too and to say, “This is really important to me, and I really need you backing me up on this.” If he agrees, then ahead of the next lunch, you can approach your bosses and say, “Cecil and I were talking and we’re both concerned about any of us driving after we have drinks at these lunches. Can we either all head over in a cab or have someone drive who’s not going to drink?”

A third option might be to talk to the other owner. This is tricky since you’ll be talking about her husband, but if she’s a generally reasonable person, you could try, “Hey, we feel awkward about saying this to Bob directly, but we’d feel a lot more comfortable if we had a ride back with someone who hadn’t been drinking.”

Of these three, the first option might be the best. If nothing else, it’s the only one that doesn’t rely on convincing someone else to agree with you, and it’s fully within your control.

{ 404 comments… read them below }

  1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    Can you offer to drive his car? Honestly, if you can even sound sincere, like “I’m happy to drive everyone back, not as a designated driver, but as a thank you.” And maybe compliment his car, if your boss is like mine, it’s a nice car.

    1. SierraSkiing*

      That was my first thought too! Offering to drive can seem more like a favor to the boss than a scolding.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think you can absolutely start there, but if you get blown off (and some people will definitely blow that off), you’ve got to be prepared to be more direct.

      1. Lee*

        How is 3 glasses too much when you’re a man ? I mean she sounds prudish and uniformed of how BAC works ? You’re going to OFFEND with some of what you’ve said here and/or she’s going to Look Naive and young and out of touch, or rather judging and questioning the Owners Common Sense and judgment . like Oh you don’t know this but I, your younger coworker who chooses not to drink THINK that you have a binge drinking problem. I get it if people are drunk off their butts but this doesn’t sound like that at all ? I mean I get it if you’re concerned for your safety but why not ask what other coworker thinks, or offer to drive first.

        1. Sea Anemone Enemy*

          This isn’t about OP accusing the owner of having a drinking problem—it’s about OP having the right to not feel compelled to ride with a boss/driver who’s under the influence (regardless of how much the boss drank, technically they would be under the influence to some degree) if they want to remain in good standing and on good terms with said bosses at work!

        2. Mia Rose*

          This is harsh. According to the BAC calculator, a 180-lb man who has 3 drinks will likely have a BAC level of 0.04, which isn’t considered drunk, but is enough to have slightly impaired judgement. I would not want to ride in a car with someone who did this.

          The other admin guy agrees that it isn’t ideal but goes along with it because “it’ll probably be fine.”

          It doesn’t sound like the other person likes it, either. There is a workplace power imbalance in this situation that comes into play as well, and I suspect these junior employees feel a bit trapped by the situation. I don’t want to make a snap judgement, but your rather hostile response and overexaggeration makes me wonder what you have invested in this scenario.

        3. Bethany*

          It depends how long they’re drinking for. To maintain a BAC under 0.05, an adult male can have 2 standard drinks (10 grams of alcohol) in the first hour, and 1 standard drink each hour after that.

          So if the boss is having 3 standard drinks they need to be there for 2 hours for that to work out. Of course, that’s assuming that a glass of wine is a standard drink, when it’s usually somewhere between 1 and 1.5 standard drinks per glass. So boss could have to wait anywhere between 2 to 3.5 hours.

          1. boop the first*

            Am I the only one who has a much more severe reaction to wine than say, beer?
            I can drink a beer without noticing anything, but just 2 oz of wine will make me limp and dizzy for at least an hour.
            Are all “drinks” equal in these math equations?

        4. The Disapproving Brit*

          3 glasses of wine is a full bottle. Yes, that is absolutely to much to be driving on regardless of gender.

        5. I have never watched Game of thrones.*

          You could lose your license for that here (in the weird place of Europe).

    3. Vemasi*

      Or you can offer to drive everyone in your car (if you have one, I wasn’t sure if you don’t drive, or if you just have to take public transport because he drove you there in the first place), if Boss is hesitant to let anyone drive his car (if it’s expensive).

      Honestly, you can totally frame it as being the designated driver. Just don’t frame it as a reaction to the boss specifically drinking, if he would be sensitive to that. “Hey, I just realized, since I never drink I would be happy to drive everyone to lunch next time we go, and on the regular. That way everyone can enjoy their wine without worrying about driving.” Boss might be happy with this, as he can then drink as much as he wants.

      My sister’s coworker is a terrible driver, even without drinking, and always tries to spend the drive showing everyone memes on her phone. On the other hand, she refuses to ride in anyone else’s car because she has mobility issues and wants a tall seat. My sister refuses to ride with her, and if the coworker asks my sister says she has to run an errand on the way to lunch, like running to the bank (although sometimes coworker is pushy and gets told that she is scary to ride with). My sister also offers to drive others.

      1. Drew*

        “Hey, I just realized, since I never drink I would be happy to drive everyone to lunch next time we go, and on the regular. That way everyone can enjoy their wine without worrying about driving.”

        I really like this approach. This way it’s a favor you’re offering and not setting up a conflict about how much drinking is “too much.” Boss still may not agree but you’re not likely to lose any points for making this offer.

        1. Vemasi*

          Right, and then if that isn’t good enough, you can start to push.

          In the situation with my sister, the coworker is not her boss, but I still had to push HER to insist on not riding with the coworker, for the sake of her safety. I had to really make her understand that avoiding an awkward conversation is not worth getting hurt due to someone else’s negligence, especially when you genuinely feel unsafe, enough to call your sister on your way home (on Bluetooth, of course, for safety) and rail against it.

          1. AnnaBananna*

            Isn’t it strange that as adults we are still weirded out about peer pressure related situations? I 100% think I would insist on driving as DD, but then maybe that’s because I have a reasonable boss. If I didn’t, I wonder how aggressive I would be in my pursuit of….well, living after their liquid lunch.

            But honestly, WHY would anybody turn down a free DD?! I really don’t get it. I would get it if you’re only offering when they’re intoxicated – we all know how booze can make some folks totally illogical. I dunno, I loathe driving so I would be the first one tossing my keys to anyone who would take them.

            1. bleh*

              I’ve seen it a hundred times “I’m fine” “It’s my car and i know it better” “You have no right” “I know the area” Drunks have a million reasons why they should remain in control of you when they cannot control themselves. Skip lunch

        2. BookishMiss*

          But don’t make the offer if you’re not truly ok with being the DD, in case they take you up on it.

        3. Alcoholic parents*

          Also, if OP has a car, they can just make up excuses for why they have to drive themselves. “Someone I know was recently in an accident and I just feel more comfortable if I’m driving myself. Anyone is welcome to ride with me!” Or if you can base it on a real situation, that is better. I come from a family of alcoholics and while I generally don’t lie, I’d have no qualms with lying to make this situation something I can tolerate… OP you shouldn’t feel bad about it either!

      2. Lizzie*

        LW here – thanks for the helpful comments and advice. I do have my licence but not my own car. Unfortunately I’m in the U.K. where our driving insurance works differently than in the US. Only specific named drivers on a car’s policy can drive that car, not just any licensed driver. I’m (obviously) not named on my boss’s insurance policy so I can’t legally drive his car.
        I am going to raise this with him though and request that we take a cab to/from lunch in future. It will be awkward and he will probably be hostile but an awkward conversation is better than a car accident so I will be brave and address it.

        1. Lis*

          Hi, in Ireland here so possibly different but most insurance only covers named drivers but if you pay more sometimes it will cover other drivers as long as they are not your partner for occasional use so it might be worth checking. I also believe that in the UK, like here, if you are over the limit you automatically lose your license and in some cases have to resit the driving test. Fines can be huge too. So if I wanted a drink at lunch I’d be delighted with someone offering to drive back to the office.

        2. Jay*

          Speaking of insurance, I don’t think your boss would find it comfortable to file a claim with insurance. How does a person justify driving after drinks on company time? The cost of a claim, the rate hike etc. and in the US people can be excluded from a liability insurance policy.

          I used to review insurance certificates (documents that demonstrate minimum coverage is met). The interesting ones were for small companies with notes excluding people with the same surname as the company name. !!

        3. lnelson in Tysons*

          I knew about the slightly different insurance rules in the UK, but aren’t the DUI standards also different in the UK? The level to be considered to be driving under the influence is a lot lower in most of the UK?
          Also the fines are harsher I believe.

        4. MsSolo*

          I was about to comment above, but if you’re in the UK I’m really shocked he thinks he’s fine to drive after three glasses of wine. They used to recommend one small drink (125ml wine, one pint of 3% beer) but with glass sizes and alcohol strengths increasing, they now say none, because it’s pretty hard to order a drink that keeps you under the limit if you’re planning to get in a car within the next hour. You’re talking about someone up to 6 times over the legal limit (more if you’re in Scotland, where they’ve cut it down to the point that you’ll get away with a nice brandy soaked fruit cake or some rum truffles, but no actual drinking).

          Honestly, with the drinking culture over here, how long the limits and the guidance have been around, and other factors, this isn’t about ignorance or knowing your own limits: your boss is deliberately choosing to break the law and dragging his junior employees along with him. It’s all kinds of boundary crossing and power dynamics that just bring my shoulders up around my ears. It’s like insisting it’s fine for his thirteen year old daughter to drive you back after lunch – sure, she might be an amazing driver, but it’s still against the law! Is this something that happens in isolation, or is it symptomatic of his behaviour in other aspects of the work place?

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This was my first response as well. I have driven many times in this setup.

      And if there’s any resistance, I pull out the “Yeah I’m sure you can handle it fiiiiiiiiiiine but the cops may still pull you over and this can go way sideways.” Then I can leave their egos off the table and pin it on those “pesky” hardass DUI laws.

      [Disclaimer, this is my tactic and not because I believe that we shouldn’t take DUI extremely seriously, it’s all about soothing the drunkards ego in the moment so they hand you the keys without having to wrestle them, quit or call the cops yourself, etc].

      1. T. Boone Pickens*

        2-3 glasses of wine=habitually drunk? Let me know where you’d like me to send your Jump to Conclusions mat.

        1. Lola Banks*

          Not the point, but 2-3 glass of wine at lunch in the middle of the workday is not normal.

          1. fposte*

            It’s once every six weeks, though, not every day. It’s closer to old-school drinking culture than 2019 drinking culture (there’s a reason the phrase “three-martini lunch” was coined), but it’s not a shocking outlier.

            1. Vemasi*

              Honestly though, that’s probably worse in this situation. Someone who drinks every day has a higher tolerance. I would still not drive with that person, but.

              1. fposte*

                They’ll be more controlled in their presentation, but they’re not likely to be less risky on the road. But that’s the risk here–the actual drinks consumed aren’t in themselves extreme for the occasion when you take the driving out of the picture, even if they’re not something that flies in every field.

                1. Liane*

                  “They’ll be more controlled in their presentation, but they’re not likely to be less risky on the road.”
                  During my senior year of high school, ages ago, I had a few college friends, who took it upon themselves to give me some College Survival Tips Your Elders Won’t Tell You, a number of which had to do with alcohol. One of them was, “Watch out for drivers, especially at night, who are driving very slow. A LOT of them are doing that because they’ know/think they have drank too much, so they drive extra slow and careful hoping it might not attract a cop’s attention the way weaving would.” Friends weren’t wrong, IME.

          2. Clisby*

            This is about once every 6 weeks. I worked in journalism and computer programming, and a couple of glasses of wine at lunch 8 or 9 times a year was absolutely normal.

            1. What's with Today, today?*

              I work in journalism, and, same! We also usually have noon drinks on a particular board I’m a member on. My husband is an attorney and, while he doesn’t drink, he lunches with other attorneys and CASA volunteers who regularly order wine & beer at lunch.

              1. Clisby*

                Yeah, I’m surprised that anyone thinks that’s out of the ordinary. I don’t mean that having 2-3 drinks at lunch every single day is ordinary – but every now and then? Perfectly ordinary.

                1. Hermione at Heart*

                  I think whether you drink at a business lunch at all is so dependent on industry, location, and even the culture of your particular office. I’m in journalism too and no one at my office drinks at work lunches (at least not with anyone else from the office). We’re not teetotalers, we do drink at other work events, we just don’t do boozy lunches, even at nicer restaurants. When my partner’s boss takes him to lunch, on the other hand, it’s standard to have a glass or two of wine. And we work in the same industry in the same city!

                2. Deedee*

                  Like OP, I don’t drink and because of this, you very clearly see how people who drink behave when you are not, even with 1-3 drinks. Alcohol changes people’s behaviour and it’s scary how fast drinkers jump to the conclusion that they are perfectly fine to carry on and put people’s lives at risk when they take to the road. It only takes a second to change everything forever. Even completely sober professional racing car drivers have died on the racetrack – how is a normal person filled with alcohol going to go. OP should immediately put a stop to this.

                3. Observer*

                  The real issue here is not if this is “ordinary”, but whether it’s ok to drive. The answer really is “no”.

          3. Snark*

            It really is, though. Not on the regular, but I’ve been out for lunch with coworkers and we all have a couple. It’s pretty typical.

            Every day? No. Every week? Not that either. But occasionally, it’s damn fun for everyone to get the hell out at noon on a Friday and sink a couple happy hour margs.

        2. Vemasi*

          This is actually probably the root of the issue, right here. Everyone has a different internal metric for what constitutes drinking/drunk/able to drive. I know people who will get trashed at a party, wait an hour, and then drive 45 minutes home. I tend to be of a mindset that if I start drinking, I am not going to drive, no matter the amount.

          In LW’s case, the boss obviously thinks, like you, that 2-3 glasses of wine is not drunk. LW thinks otherwise. We are not here to say who is “correct,” even leaving out that every person has a different tolerance, and it’s different in every situation. LW is not comfortable, and thus LW should not have to ride with Boss. Boss does not get to make the decision for other people on what is an okay amount of inebriation for driving.

          1. Clisby*

            +1. If I were the OP, my preferred answer would be to drive myself and meet the others somewhere – but of course, I don’t know whether she has a car.

        3. Susana*

          I agree 2-3 glasses does not a wino make. However – and I’m someone who’s a member of a wine club, getting cases delivered several times a year – I would not drive if I had more than a glass at lunch. We’re talking lunch – not 2-3 glasses over the course of a five-hour evening. I mean, why not be on the safe side? I agree that to someone who does not drink, a couple of glasses might seem really excessive when it’s not. But that doesn’t mean idea or even safe to drive.

          1. Vemasi*

            That’s a good point, this is 2-3 glasses in probably an hour. High school health class rule of thumb is one drink per hour will get you drunk.

            1. Dr. Why not*

              I think you have this backwards- the rule I’ve seen is that you’re able to metabolize one drink per hour, so you should limit yourself to one drink per hour to drink safely (and keep yourself from getting drunk over a longer period).

              1. What’s with Today, today?*

                You are correct. You can metabolize about one drink per hour.

              2. fhqwhgads*

                My high school health class indicated 2 hours to metabolize one drink (which is all still a rough estimate anyway since wine has less alcohol than a Long Island Iced tea) but still…by my high school’s standards, unless this is a verrrrrry long lunch, none of them should be driving if they’re at 2-3 glasses.

              3. Vemasi*

                I think we’re saying the same thing in different ways. One drink per hour is the limit you can safely metabolize by rule-of-thumb. Thus, that is the limit. With drinking, it’s not like you tic over into drunk with one more drop, you are already most of the way there.

                I was actually going to say it more like you did, but I didn’t want to say that you can do that safely, as it is only a rule-of-thumb and I don’t want to spread misinformation. So I erred on the side of saying that it is not safe.

          2. Busy*

            Yeah, I am not sure why people are offended here? Was the use of the word “drunkard”? Cuz that is only a very small aspect of the point of the post.

            Anyway, what is being said here, and initially are correct. 1. 3 drinks in less than a hour is a lot to consume and 2. it is illegal to consume 3 drinks in an hour and drive (more than likely).

            It isn’t up to OP to figure out if she is being too pearl-clutchy or “over reacting” or whatever. Ugh this is why AAM has those rules to stay on topic – it comes across as shaming to even question it (even though I know no one means it that way) a lot of times when people jump down these rabbit holes.

            And in modern-day culture, even in European countries, it is becoming more and more frowned upon to drink at all and drive.

            1. fposte*

              You’re going too far the other way, though; we have no idea if the OP’s boss is exceeding the legal limit or not, and most American men wouldn’t be over the limit with three glasses of wine.

              1. Bagpuss*

                It depends on the wine and the size of the glass. 2 glasses of wine could be enough to put someone over the UK drink drive limits

                1. fposte*

                  Yeah, I saw she just posted she’s in the UK. The per se drink drive limits are the same as US–.08 BAC, in American terms–in most of the UK except for Scotland, but I have no idea about standard pours for wine servings there.

                2. Eleanora (UK)*

                  3 glasses is over half a bottle of wine (a small glass is 175ml in the UK), with a standard 750ml bottle of wine containing 10 units. If that’s consumed in a lunch hour, I struggle to see how anyone wouldn’t be over the UK legal limit.

              2. JSPA*

                In some countries, there’s a standard volume for a serving; in others, a single glass can = multiple servings. So all we have to go on is that OP feels it’s problematic, for whatever reason. Whether that’s signs of impairment, a good sense of the boss’s likely BAC relative to the legal limit, or seeing a balloon-style wine glass being filled as if it were a water glass, or just a general distaste for any drinking, in combination with any driving.

              3. Tara R.*

                Yeah. It’s easy to forget that what’s true for you is not true for everyone; I’m a skinny 5’4″ woman, and I wouldn’t drive after one glass, but one of my coworkers is a super muscular 6’4″ guy who I wouldn’t think twice about getting into a car with after 2-3 glasses over an hour and a half. But he also wouldn’t be surprised by someone saying “I’m going to get a cab, I’m not comfortable driving with someone who’s been drinking”, because it’s pretty impossible to judge things like that unless you’re carrying a breathalyzer around with you, and good people understand being a bit risk adverse when it comes to these things.

              4. The Dig*

                In France, it is highly recommended (by law) that you don’t drive if you’ve had 2 glasses of wine or more(= 1 pint of beer, or 1 shot of strong alcohol, if memory serves me right). If you have had your permit for less than 3 years, the maximum recommended amount is at 1 glass.
                You can still be under the legal limit at 2 glasses, of course, but it’s a legal reference value.

            2. a1*

              Where are you getting the “less than an hour” from? A team lunch, even a small team, usually takes more than that unless it is fast food. I’d think 1.5-2 hours. But regardless, we don’t know.

              1. Eleanora (UK)*

                I think the assumption’s based on the fact that lunch in the UK is usually an hour. For my office, even if we go out as a team, we’re normally back at the office inside of 90 mins.

        4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Oh please, you’re sensitive to a word that doesn’t even denote a problem, just a choice of someone who should think before they over-indulge.

          I don’t care about your “tolerance” in terms of what makes you feel drunk, you’re drinking almost an entire bottle of wine if you’re getting 3 glasses, since a wine bottle has 4 servings. Your level of intoxication that you /feel/ and what your brain/reaction time is differ drastically.

          1. PlainJane*

            This. Drink all you want. Just don’t drive under the influence. I hate that people get so defensive about this. No one is saying that 3 glasses of wine at lunch makes you an alcoholic. But it probably does impair your ability to drive safely and may be illegal, depending on the specific laws in your area.

            1. boop the first*

              People DO get weirdly defensive about alcohol, generally. It’s just as bad a drug as all the others we judge more harshly. The difference is, alcoholism is so normalized that we wear quirky t-shirts to proudly display our dependence. It’s wild.

          2. Mongrel*

            Just to clarify – it depends.
            A standard UK serving is a 125ml glass (although you can get a 250ml serving if you ask) and a rule of thumb is that 125ml is 1 ‘unit’ of alcohol and two units, on average, will put you over the limit.
            Three small glasses may be OK over a long lunch, if the person is good at processing alcohol, three large glasses is almost certainly over the legal limit.

            1. Eleanora (UK)*

              I think most ‘small’ glasses of wine come in at 175ml these days, so it all starts adding up even more quickly. Agreed that I struggle to see how 2-3 glasses wouldn’t put someone over the limit.

              1. TardyTardis*

                And if you’re at our local VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars), they pour deep and cheap–three glasses is actually beyond my limit, and no waaaay am I going to drive.

        5. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Becky didn’t say OP’s boss is a habitually drunk. She said this is how SHE soothes HER drunkards. And there *are* people who think they’re fine to drive after 3-4 shots.
          (Remembers Oksana Baiul’s classic DUI quote: “I am not drunk I am Russian!” with her car spun out and her blood alcohol 50% higher than the state’s legal limit.)

        6. Jennifer Juniper*

          I think the LW meant “legally drunk, as in too drunk to drive” not “falling-down, blackout puking drunk.”

    5. Llellayena*

      Before offering to drive the boss’s car, check to see if it’s manual or automatic. My boss has a manual transmission and I don’t know how to drive it! Alternately, if you have your car at work, can you say “I’ll drive separately”?

      1. It's the little things*

        In the UK 99.9% of people learned in and drive a manual so is unlikely to be an issue

        1. Llellayena*

          The letter is unclear where the writer is located. In the US, manual transmissions are much less common and learning how to use one is a skill than not everyone has the opportunity or interest in learning. If she is in the UK, then I’m glad that wouldn’t be in impediment to offering to drive the boss’s car.

            1. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

              And in the UK, her boss’s ‘two to three glasses’ of wine is more than enough to put said boss well over the drink drive limit to the point where he will lose his licence.

              Drink drivers are assholes. I’m sorry, OP, but please don’t get in the car with him again.

    6. Not Me*

      Starting with “not as a designated driver, but as a thank you” and then insisting or being more direct may appear as though the OP is being insincere.

  2. Snark*

    Some other suggestions, having a family member who does this BS quite often:

    – Propose that you all take Ubers so we can cut loose as much as we please
    – Take a cab, same reason
    – If you have a car, drive it yourself
    – Ask a friend, if one is available, to give you a ride back
    – Take the rest of the afternoon off

    But don’t get in that car.

    Yes, I know you’re not paid well, but frame it as “I’m taking a ride for my own safety” and consider it part of the lunch they paid for you.

    1. NewGlassesGirl*

      “Propose that you all take Ubers so we can cut loose as much as we please” great idea! I work with folks that like to party and we have a company Uber account that allows us to charge the ride directly to the company. This may not be feasible for LW but it is a nice thing.

      1. ChimericalOne*

        Saying “So we can cut loose as much as we please” won’t go over well if they’re expected to get work done in the afternoon, however. The boss is already having 2 glasses of wine — this seems to be suggesting actually getting drunk. Bosses who are cool with you being a little buzzed at work are not necessarily cool with you being drunk at work.

        1. Snark*

          OP doesn’t drink. The script plays to the boss’ predilections. What she’s saying is, I’ll drive so you can be a lush like you really want to.

          1. fposte*

            But there’s no indication the boss really wants to be a lush, and if he takes it as meaning that, that’s not going to go well for the OP.

    2. Aveline*

      This is the winning strategy. It’s much preferable to raising the safer issue. Even if she’s 100% correct that he’s over the limit, people rarely take that well.

      Raising it as a ride share so all can have fun without worry or risk would be great.

    3. your favorite person*

      I wonder if the LW doesn’t have a license, based on her not already offering this and asking to take public transport.

  3. Auntie Social*

    Can you volunteer to be the designated driver? Tell them that’s the least you can do for going to such a nice lunch? And that way he doesn’t risk getting a ticket—put that way instead of “you’re dangerous” makes you genuinely concerned about him.

    1. Collarbone High*

      I’ve noticed that in the past few years, campaigns against drunk driving in the U.S. have focused less on “it’s dangerous” and more on “getting a DUI will ruin your life.” There’s probably a thesis to be written about what that says about society, but the boss is likely to respond better to that approach.

      1. Auntie Social*

        That’s what I’m hoping. Even if you look at it as “your lawyer’s gonna cost you $5,000”.

      2. dealing with dragons*

        I think some of that is people really do drive drunk /drunk/ less. my dad talks about being 16 with a 6 pack of beer in a cooler in the car driving around – that’s way less socially acceptable than having two glasses of wine over lunch now days. I think we’ve moved on from drunk driving more or less equalling you’re blackout drunk and it being that you’re tipsy and not reacting quite as quickly. you’re way less likely to kill someone that way, so I think the tone of the messages changed.

        0 evidence on my part, but I imagine it’s similar to the littering campaign that went on.

        1. Pommette!*

          It’s my (also unfounded and I would love to see data on this!) impression as well. Driving while “feeling” drunk used to be socially acceptable. Campaigns against drunk driving have successfully changed that norm.
          So now a lot of the drunk driving that does happen comes from either chronic alcoholics (and honestly I don’t know how well public health campaigns are going to work for this group, absent access to effective treatment), or people who have just had two/three glasses with a meal and don’t think of themselves as being drunk. “I know that you don’t think you’re impaired, but seriously, you could face legal penalties so plan accordingly” is probably an effective message for people in this group.

        2. Grace*

          That’s why the messages in the UK (and I think Australia and a few others) is about *drink* driving, not drunk driving. Everyone can argue ’til the cows come home about whether a couple of pints or a few glasses has made them drunk – but the point is, you had more than one drink, and that makes it not okay.

          Drink driving – drinking and then driving, whether you’re drunk or not – is socially unacceptable here. I don’t know anyone who had ever admitted to having more than half a pint/a small glass and then driving, and I know plenty of people who refuse to drive after having any alcohol at all. I’m one of them – I know that my reaction time has slowed, and arguing that I’m okay to drive because I’m not drunk is ridiculous. No, I’m not drunk – but I’m not safe to drive, either.

          1. fposte*

            Interestingly, Australia’s alcohol-related traffic fatality rate is pretty much the same as the U.S.’s. It’s much, much lower in the UK.

            1. Grace*

              I suspect that’s due to population density, to an extent. If you live in a town, you’re probably within walking distance from the restaurant or pub – in my family, if someone is happy to be DD then we drive, but if we all want to drink there’s absolutely no problem with the fifteen-minute walk there and back. In larger cities, where that’s not the case (although you probably still have a local pub), there is almost always good public transport that runs until the early hours of the morning.

              The US and Australia are much more spread-out, to my understanding (we mostly stayed rural when I visited Australia, but the urban bits I saw were pretty sprawling). If you want to go somewhere, you drive – because you can’t walk, and there’s no good public transport. That’s not the case here.

              1. TechWorker*

                Agree – I’m in the U.K. and definitely know folk in rural areas with a pretty lax attitude to drink driving (many of these areas there’s basically no cabs and definitely no public transport).

                I’ve never forgotten the culture shock of meeting a friends Bajan cousin who happily told me about the time she drove home from a club and was so drunk she couldn’t even remember driving. That would not be something to admit to let alone tell as a ‘funny story’ in the U.K.

      3. TootsNYC*

        it’ll mess up the company’s insurance as well, since it was a company lunch and company employees. And you just don’t want the hassle.

      4. Anonomoose*

        I think it’s mostly a “but I’m not dangerous when I’ve had x drinks”, so focusing on the strict legal definition helps.

        The cynic in me thinks the strict laws came about not because anyone thought that *they* were dangerous, but that everyone else they saw drink driving was.

        1. Oranges*

          I don’t know if there’s a name for it but I think of it as the “I have reasons for this behavior, everyone else is a jerk” logical fallacy. We all do it in large and small ways. I love humans. We fall in the same logic traps because human.

          1. fposte*

            Yes, absolutely. And because the boss has always done this without incident, it feels like it’s safe to him.

          2. delta cat*

            Are you thinking of the “fundmental attribution error” maybe? It’s described as the tendency to attribute our own behaviour to situational factors, but to attribute the behaviour of others to internal characteristics.

        2. PlainJane*

          Also, alcohol impairs judgment, so it’s harder to tell whether you’re impaired. When I was a kid, on New Years Eve a local radio station would have one of the DJs drink on the air till he reached the legal limit for DUI (which was .10 at that time). Everyone could hear him sounding more and more drunk, but when his colleague would ask him if he felt OK to drive, he always said yes–even when he blew a .10.

        3. Wintermute*

          The problem is that can really backfire, for instance a male drinker would have to be under 165 pounds in order for three standard servings of alcohol in one hour to put them over the (shared UK and US) legal limit. All that does is invite rules lawyering “oh that was a short pour, and it’s been an hour and 10 minutes not an hour, and my driver’s license says 175, I’m totally legal to drive!”

          Presenting it as a personal moral code you won’t budge on “I don’t get in the car with anyone that’s had more than one drink in the last hour” is something that can’t be lawyered about, nor is it something people that have anything resembling a healthy relationship with alcohol will fight you on.

      5. UKDancer*

        There is quite a bit of evidence that people don’t believe that they will crash. They tend to think that accidents due to drink happen to other people. A high percentage of people believe they’re better than average drivers. So running campaigns that say “drink driving kills” just don’t always work. It’s a lot more effective to say that “getting caught can ruin your life, stop you getting a job, etc” People can believe those consequences and visualise them a lot more easily. Road safety campaigns tend to be about what works and consequences work better.

  4. Amber Rose*

    Do you or the other admin drive? How comfortable would you feel seeing if one of you could not drink and offer to take the keys?

    Even if not, make the case for a cab and outline it as “then you don’t have to worry about checkstops.” You just don’t want him to get a ticket, rather than not trusting him to drive.

    My whole job is bringing up safety concerns to people who don’t want to hear them. You just have to find the right framing.

    1. Bagpuss*

      The OP is in the UK, so she wouldn’t be able to drive her bosses car unless he adds her by name to the insurance, Even if she has her own insurance the cover when driving someone else’s car is usually less extensive than for your own.

  5. the elephant in the room*

    I think Allison’s advice is the way to go here. But seriously, fuck anyone who prioritizes their fun over the safety of others.

    1. 867-5309*

      I think you’ll find a number of people would say they’re fine after 2-3 drinks, depending on the length of the lunch. Over a couple hours they boss might very well be. I don’t think we know for certain that he’s cavalier about other people’s safety.

      1. Slartibartfast*

        You can feel perfectly fine and still blow a 0.08. It doesn’t take much to put you over the legal limit.

          1. Alice*

            To reach a blood alcohol content of .08% (US limit), a 160-pound man needs to drink four five-ounce glasses of wine in an hour, according to
            I mean, yes, I’m sure there are people in the world who would reach .08% with one glass of wine, but it’s not typical.
            And really, the question of whether the boss is drunk is a red herring. The real point is about OP’s comfort level, not boss’s blood alcohol concentration.

            1. Clisby*

              Yes. If she isn’t comfortable riding with a driver who’s had any alcohol to drink, then she isn’t. She needs to figure out a way not to ride with him. (If her boss is drinking at most 2-3 drinks over lunch, then she’s likely incorrect that he’s over the legal limit, but I don’t see how that matters. You can be impaired without being over the legal limit.)

            2. M&Ms fix lots of Problems*

              And there is also the issue that not everywhere has a legal limit of 0.08. Many places around the world are lower. In my area the legal limit is 0.05. Two to three glasses of wine in a meal will put most people over the legal limit here.

            3. Gumby*

              I am female, but weigh more than 160. I am probably not a safe driver after 1 drink/1 hour. I don’t know if I’d be over .08, but it really doesn’t matter to me. I am a humongous lightweight when it comes to alcohol. The most I ever drink is 2 drinks per night spread over a couple of hours. The second drink has me practically asleep. Everyone reacts differently.

            4. Jennifer Juniper*

              That is not true for women. Women get drunk faster off smaller amounts of alcohol, even controlling for body weight, than men. That is because women have less of an enzyme that digests alcohol than men do. People also get drunk on smaller amounts of alcohol as they age.

          2. darsynia*

            My parents participated in a research study once and the study involved having the three of us in a room (I was about 7) and they gave us a bottle of wine for my parents to share, and we all played board games or something. The point was to monitor how much alcohol my parents drank and then give them a blood test at the end to see what their levels were. It was part of a study on PTSD (my mom was in a horrific car accident when she was 21), but I was so young I couldn’t tell you why they did this aspect of it.

            What I do know is that my mom had one glass (she’s a pretty petite woman) and my dad had the rest (6’2, 250 pound man), and they had very similar BAC. It all depends on when they drank it of course but I remember my parents telling that story to their friends a lot in the years afterwards. It definitely isn’t an exact science!

            Oh, and they paid a taxi to come get us and drive us back.

            1. SpellingBee*

              This is off-topic, but I just had a flashback to the old WKRP episode where they did on on-air test with Dr. Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap to demonstrate how drinking affects your reaction time. Venus showed the anticipated effects, but Johnny’s reactions got faster and sharper the more he drank. Like so many episodes, this was silly but funny.

          3. Wintermute*

            To reach the BAC limit (shared between the UK and US) by having one (standard) drink over the span of an hour you’d have to be female and weigh less than 60 pounds, or male and weigh less than 55.

            That’s why arguing legal BAC isn’t really the route to go here, it’s easier to frame it as a personal moral matter because that’s not up for dispute the way “well it’s been an hour and fifteen minutes, pshaw, see, this calculator on my phone says I’m totally legal to drive!”

      2. Batgirl*

        But the drinking is more of a priority to him than safety, even if he’s not totally cavalier about safety and has (self) assessed his drinking as fine. There’s still a safety risk attached. For me, even if I really felt confident I wouldn’t ask someone else (especially an employee) to just trust me on that risk assessment.

      3. Vemasi*

        But he doesn’t get to decide that for everyone in his car. Honestly, he doesn’t get to decide that at all. That’s why we have laws about it–the government has decided for you, so there isn’t a gray area. Over a lunch with 2-3 glasses of wine, I bet he will blow a .08, even if he isn’t that impaired.

        1. Cheerio guv*

          Over a lunch with 2-3 glasses of wine, I bet he will blow a .08, even if he isn’t that impaired.

          You have no way of knowing that. If the lunch is taking 2 hours and he is not particularly underweight, based on the CDC guidelines, I would say it’s unlikely.

      4. Agent Diane*

        We do, because he think he’s OK to drive after a couple of glasses of wine. The rough guide in the UK is that two small glasses of wine will have you over the limit for a good few hours. That’s at least 250 ml at somewhere between 11-14% ABV. If he’s having large glasses then it’s at least 350ml.

        There’s so many variables here that one week he may be below the limit and next time he’s above it. To me not caring whether you’re over the limit or not – despite knowing you could kill people if you mess up – meets the definition of being cavalier.

        OP ~ suggest the cab there and back. Offer to do all the booking etc. If he refuses, use the public transport and offer to make up the ‘lost’ time by coming in early the day of the meal.

        For context, I’m in the UK and in a part where drink driving is not unheard off (rural lanes etc). I know some people who I would trust to drive after a glass of wine, and some who I wouldn’t. I’d give side-eye to anyone being totally confident after two glasses. Your knowledge of your boss is ringing an alarm bell so you should listen to it.

  6. NewGlassesGirl*

    When talking to people in my friend group (I know different) the point I always bring up is what if someone rear ends you?

    1. Delta Delta*

      DUI lawyer here. That happens and unfortunately people get arrested when it does. They think they’re ok, they get hit by someone else and then they end up with multiple problems at once.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Or if you’re pulled over for something even minor and the cop suspects you’ve been drinking, it escalates so quickly. That’s what I always tell people.

      And it’s not just a ticket or warning, it’s a car impounding and arrest moment.

      1. Bagpuss*

        In the UK, you would be arrested and normally lose your licence for at least a year

      2. CMart*


        I’ve been arrested for DUI (and then released with no charges) because it was the holidays, it was late, I had my one glass of wine on my breath and I didn’t use my turn signal in an arrest-happy village. It’s a longer story than that, but it really was an “it escalates so quickly” kind of thing, and the officer was convinced I was drunk.

        My car was impounded and I still had to pay $150 to get it out, not to mention the hours of my (and my passenger friend’s) time wasted, sleep lost, and gray hairs gained from the stress.

    3. Liane*

      I also would not put it past whoever rear ends Boss, or whoever Boss’s car gets pushed into, (or their insurance) to sue Boss’s company on the grounds that this was a mandatory work event therefore the company is liable. I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know if this would be a valid argument, and I have no idea how to say this to a boss.

      But, yes, OP, don’t get in a car when the driver has been drinking. You are not overreacting.
      As for your admin colleague, maybe point out that neither of you will have a job if the business goes under because Boss gets a DUI (rear ended, checkpoint, pulled over for something minor, etc.) or gets himself or someone else hurt/killed.

      1. EH*

        This! I had a boss who wouldn’t attend unofficial coworker hangouts where we’d be drinking (e.g. drinking margaritas while watching Office Space) because she was concerned it’d make it a work event and the company would be liable if something happened. I got the sense that she knew a manager who’d gotten in trouble that way but never got the deets. She was really serious about it.

  7. Anonadog*

    Any way you can take your own car because you have a “quick errand” to run after?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think she has her own car based on the options she listed in the letter (take a cab or public transit) but if she does, yes definitely.

      1. Vemasi*

        But that could also be because the boss is the one who drove her to lunch, so now she’s at the restaurant without a car?

        If not, perhaps the other admin has a car? You could ride together, and either say that you are running an errand or that the boss’s car is to crowded.

        1. ChimericalOne*

          Yes, that was my thought. But it could be awkward to have a “quick errand” every time this happens, and it might be irrating to the boss if he values the time together on the drive to/from.

          1. Vemasi*

            The boss can suck it up, honestly. Sometimes stuff gets to be awkward.

            My sister was still waiting tables for several months after getting her current job, so she always had an excuse to run an errand (she had to deposit tips every week). Or maybe you “need” to pick up a regular prescription, or any number of things. If people call you on it they are just asking for you to tell them you’re not comfortable riding with them, which LW will have to do anyway if Boss pushes for any reason.

            1. Agnodike*

              The thing is, when you’re the person who makes your boss feel awkward, sometimes that’s going to have consequences for your work life, despite the fact that it’s neither fair nor reasonable that that’s the case.

      2. MarsJenkar*

        It could also be that the OP does have a car, but for whatever reason it’s not practical to drive in, pay for parking, etc., at least compared to taking public transit for the commute. I’ve been there, so I can understand why that option would be lower on the list, or even completely off the list if the OP doesn’t know in advance when the lunches will be (i.e. they’re announced day-of).

        But of course I’m speculating. It could well be that the OP really doesn’t have a car of their own (a more common occurrence in cities with good public transit), and those really are the only options. Whatever the case is, I definitely support OP here.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Based on the fact that she said she would have to take public transportation back to the office, I’m guessing she doesn’t drive to work.

    3. Alton*

      I think even if she does have a car, some of this may depend on her role and seniority (and the office culture). There’s a difference between announcing you have to run a quick errand when you’re a salaried employee who has a somewhat flexible workday and doing that when you’re a non-exempt support staff member who’s supposed to be available when needed and take your breaks at set times, for example.

  8. karlyk*

    I’d be more personal than Alison’s suggestion of “I’m really, really cautious about this after reading too many horror stories about people who seemed fine to drive but weren’t.” I’d say something like “I’m really cautious about this, since I have both a family member and a friend who have been in accidents after just a couple of beers and had to spend the night in jail.”

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      My BIL has 2 DUI’s now and luckily has decided to take thing very seriously (otherwise my sister was going to kick him to the curb). We all have decided to support him by be very cautious on our own consumption around him as well as having a clearly designated driver identified. Part of his issues stem from anxiety and depression so removing any question of who is doing what has helped him relax and stay on the wagon (we noticed him monitoring my husband and I at a family dinner once and made a couple of comments about our son and the car ride home so we realized what was going on. For the record neither of us had more than 1 beverage but my husband’s was very large and he usually drives us home but this time I was).

      He just got his 6-month chip this past weekend.

    2. alphabet soup*

      Yes, I think having a personal connection to drunk driving makes this easier for people to understand. I was injured in drunk driving accident a few years ago and developed some PTSD as a response, so I still sometimes get triggered by all cars/drivers (not just those who are under the influence). When I share this with folks as the reason why I’m not getting in the car with them, they seem much more understanding and take it less personally.

      1. MayLou*

        My neighbour was hit and killed by a drink drivers couple of years ago. She was out for a walk with her husband and their three children, one of whom was an infant. By some miracle the boys were unharmed. Dad was airlifted to hospital but was okay long term. The driver was jailed.

        I know someone who frequently will drink an entire bottle of wine and then drive home (she’s also in her 70s so her reactions are less sharp than they used to be). I and others have offered her lifts home. I have asked her close friends to have a word with her. She (and they) brushed it off. Next time I see her drinking and then settings off to drive home, I am calling the police. I’ve watched that little baby grow up without his mother for the last two years and I no longer have any sympathy for anyone who believes they deserve a bottle of wine and a convenient journey home more than he deserves a mother.

        1. Jennifer Juniper*

          Hmmmm…..time to report this lady to the DMV! Her license may need to be confiscated.

        2. AJ*

          A drunk driver killed my husband and our two boys. This was when drunk driving was more of a “social faux pas.” Call the police.

      2. Going anonymous for this one 2019*

        One of my earliest memories (!) is my mother very clearly telling me “This is the exit where your uncle rolled his car. Never get in the car with him or his girlfriend driving. They just don’t understand that beer makes them bad drivers.”

    3. Pommette!*

      This would be my approach, too. Except that I would just make a story up, make sure that it was plausible given local laws/law enforcement practices, and stick to it.

      Bonus: this approach allows the OP a diplomatic out for suddenly changing a habit she had previously not expressed any qualms about (I never thought anything about riding with you, but after this crazy thing that just happened to my friend…”).

      It would be a complete lie, both because the story would be fake, and because I don’t actually think that it is crazy for someone to be pulled over for driving after having had three glasses of wine… but I’m a coward, and if that’s what it takes to get out of the boss’s passenger seat (while alerting him to some of the risks he’s running), that’s what it would have to be.

    4. cheluzal*

      My brother was killed by a drunk driver. Hard, unapologetic nope. In fact, I don’t even like being a passenger with anyone, even sober.

  9. Aveline*

    Question for LW that will come up: If you don’t drink how are you sure he is over the legal limit? Is there some behavior you’re seeing that is concerning? Slurred speech? Motor coordination issues?

    I’m only asking this because 2 glasses of wine over two hours would not render most people unsafe to drive. If the boss is a large man, 2 glasses over an hour might not do it. If he’s, say 250 lbs or larger, three glasses would be a concern, but not two.

    You don’t have to take my word for it: there are NTSB charts on this. Or google Blood Alcohol Level Chart: Are You Too Drunk to Legally Drive?

    Are they over the limit based in this? If not, how close are they?

    For me, two glasses of wine in an hour and I wouldn’t drive. My former NFL player friend would be fine. If you told him you were concerned about his driving, you’d be viewed as really out of touch.

    That being said, you are wishing your rights to say you won’t ride with them even if you are overreacting because you have to be the guardian of your own safety.

    If you are trying to get your boss to drink less or not drive at all, you need to either have some basis based in his behavior or based on a scientific understanding of how many drinks a man if his size should have per hour. For some, two is too many. For others, it is not.

    1. Justme, The OG*

      Whether he is over the legal limit or not, the OP gets to decide that she doesn’t want to get in the car with someone who has been drinking. Even one.

      1. Aveline*

        I don’t disagree with that at all.

        That’s why I said she’s within her rights not to ride with him even if he’s not over the limit.

        1. Chope*

          Amazing how many people skip over the salient sentence when they’ve got a point to make.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Not drinking yourself doesn’t mean you’re not familiar with the signs, or aren’t familiar with the general guidelines on alcohol consumption vs. body weight, etc., so I’m not sure how “if you don’t drink yourself how are you sure . . . ” is even remotely relevant. If anything, it’s the people who are impaired whose estimate of this is likely to be inaccurate.

      1. Aveline*

        I don’t disagree with the fact she might well know. I have friends who don’t drink who are really good at detecting when others are past the limit and I have to drive them. I have other friends who don’t drink who think that I have a glass of wine will make a linebacker over the limit.

        I’m just perplexed because she says no one drinks to excess but then is concerned about the driving. If she’s going to raise this is a concern about her safety she needs to get it clear in her head what she’s going to say.

        To be clear: She should absolutely not ride with them if boss is driving after imbibing. Period.

        1. Gerta*

          My understanding of that wording is that no-one drinks to the point that they are obviously impaired. That is not the same thing as being both safe and legal to drive. Reaction times and judgement could still be affected.

            1. 867-5309*

              I’m sorry everyone is bagging on you. I don’t think you were discounting OP’s experience, but rather providing an alternative suggestion. One I happen to agree with. OP still has every right to decide she’s not comfortable but we don’t have enough information to determine the boss is definitely over the legal limit, which is the tone of some earlier comments.

        2. Observer*

          I’m not sure why you are confused – what she’s saying is so simple that I’m wondering if you are the one who doesn’t quite get how this works, rather than the OP.

          You can drink “not to excess” while still being not fit to drive. You see, you don’t need to be slurring your speech, etc. to be not fit to drive. There’s a good reason why police use breath tests to check alcohol level, rather that tests like “can you walk the line?” Sure, if you can’t walk the line you DEFINITELY are not good to drive. But, you can be able to walk the line and still not be fit to drive.

    3. JB (not in Houston)*

      Please don’t tell someone they are overreacting because they don’t want to get in the car with someone who has been drinking, or suggest they can’t know whether someone is probably over the limit because they don’t personally drink (and you shouldn’t be basing your judgments on just on the size of the person drinking, either, unless you know all the medications they take and an awful lot about their medical history). There are reasons not to want to be in a car with someone driving if they’ve been drinking even if they aren’t over their limit–for example, if they get stopped for some other reason, that’s going to be a very different traffic stop than if the driver had not had anything to drink.

      1. Aveline*

        I had no way said she was overreacting.

        What I said was, that even if she was overreacting out of an experience or fear, it doesn’t matter.

        That’s not the same thing.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          The bulk of your comment is explaining to the OP that while she may not realize it, alcohol affects different people differently, and you suggest she may not be in a position to judge if the boss is impaired. Then at the end you tack on a statement that basically says “that said, even if you are overreacting, you still get to decide if you’re afraid.” If you weren’t trying to tell the OP that she’s overreacting or probably doesn’t know what someone looks like impaired, please consider reframing it.

          And for everyone saying a large man can drink 2 glasses of wine, that’s just generalities. We don’t know if the boss has any medical conditions or medications he takes that would make it different for him. So none of us can sit here and say “if you’re uncomfortable, that’s fine, but you’re probably wrong about him being impaired.” We don’t know. She’s there to see him, we’re not.

          And regardless, none of the debate here about whether he’s really over the limit matters. The OP doesn’t feel safe and wants a way to not drive back with him. None of this discussion helps her with that, it just tells her that her judgment of feeling unsafe is probably wrong. That’s not what she wrote in about.

          1. Jasnah*

            This. The bulk of Aveline’s comment is about how alcohol affects people differently, and the part saying that doesn’t actually matter is buried in there somewhere. It’s very misleading if the main point is that it doesn’t actually matter.

            Personally, I don’t think the “legal” limit is what matters at all, and I don’t know why everyone is so focused on what combo of alcohol will lead different people to blow a 0.08 as if that is the universal standard. Where I live the legal limit is 0, and that is also my personal limit. I will not get in a car with a driver who has had anything to drink. It doesn’t matter if it’s 0.08 or not, it’s about being and feeling safe.

        2. JSPA*

          It was 100% clear to me!

          You’re addressing the legal issue… and the practical issue… and the emotional side of it all.

          Boss may know that he remains under the limit, even after 3 glasses. Several of the arguments suggested to OP will not work, if that’s the case. OP needs to keep that in mind, while presenting arguments.

          Also, if OP is faced with getting in the car again, after boss has had (say) 1 or 1.5 glasses rather than 2-3, this may help OP game out how they feels about the situation. Maybe OP is a “not a single drop may pass your lip” person; maybe OP is fine with the residual alcohol in the zabaglione; maybe OP is actually curious about the point where impairment and/or legal liability begin. That’s not for us to decide. Knowledge is power; you’re providing knowledge. More power to you, and to OP.

      2. Ada*

        The medication point is really important. I’m not at all comfortable getting in the car with a driver who’s had anything to drink for this very reason. Was in a couple near-misses because the driver was taking meds that should never be mixed with alcohol and figured, “well, a little bit is probably fine.” This was someone who was supposed to have my best interests at heart, but they pulled this stunt on me a few times. Gets real hard to trust other people’s judgment after something like that.

    4. Legal Limit Shouldn't Matter Here*

      I don’t think it matters if LW knows for sure if boss is over the limit. The point is the boss is drinking and the LW doesn’t feel safe or comfortable riding with him.

      I think it’s unfair to say they’d be perceived as “out of touch” for wanting to be in the car with a 100% sober driver, and I think it’s rude of you or your former NFL friend to judge someone who expects that from their rides (or have to show proof that the driver isn’t safe. Not every drinker is as aware of their capacity to drive as we’d all like to think; after all, most drunk driving accidents probably start with “I’m totally fine to drive!”)

      1. Alice*

        It is indeed unfair that some people will perceive her as out of touch for objecting to being in a car with a driver who has drunk wine — but it’s also true that some people will perceive her that way.
        One of the features of this site that I appreciate is that you can get advice about how the world really is as well as how the world should be.

        1. Rezvani*

          Exactly – no one should be judged for deciding that they don’t wish to be in a vehicle with someone who has been drinking, even a little – but the reality is, a lot of people will judge you for this. A lot of people will feel that you are being judgmental towards them for questioning their ability to drive.

        2. Sunflower*

          I totally agree. I don’t find the advice of ‘LW you are totally right so that should be enough’ to be helpful because LW knows they are right. They aren’t writing in to ask if they are right, they’re writing in because they are aware they live in a world that even though they are right, it might not play out in a fair way. That’s why the advice of suggesting they all Uber so everyone can enjoy is a much better solution than saying ‘Just stand your ground because it’s right and fair’

      2. PlainJane*

        “Not every drinker is as aware of their capacity to drive” – bingo. My father always insisted he was a better driver after a few beers – even after he got in a bad accident with my mom and me in the car, because he was a) driving on the wrong side of the road, b) after dark, c) with no headlights on, after (you guessed it) d) having a few beers. He was convicted of DUI for it back in the days when DUI laws were really lenient. I don’t trust anyone’s judgment about their own drinking or the effect of said drinking on their ability to drive.

        1. fposte*

          There’s long been a myth that people are better drivers with a little alcohol, in fact. (Surprise not surprise: untrue.)

    5. Zip Silver*

      Seconding this, I understand OP bring concerned since they don’t drink, but 2 glasses of wine with a meal is the definition of moderation.

      1. Observer*

        That has nothing to do with whether someone is safe to drive though. Note that the OP is explicit that they don’t think that the boss is drinking too much. But there is a difference between “too much” and “too much to drive.”

        1. Cheerio guv*

          But our society has decided that there is such a thing as a blood alcohol content test for drunk driving. OP really does not know that her boss is over that limit, and based on her description (2-3 glasses over 2-3 hours) there are a lot of good reasons to think he is NOT legally impaired. Indeed he might be very close to having nil blood alcohol content. If that’s the case, raising arguments that “let me drive because of the potential for DUIs” will not be persuasive to boss and will come across as accusatory.

      2. Forrest*

        “A glass of wine” is not actually a useful measure. If you’ve got a bottle and someone is pouring 100ml of wine in a glass, sure, two glasses might be fine. If you purchase “a glass of wine” in a British restaurant, you’re usually going to get 175ml as a small glass and 250ml as a large glass. 500ml of wine in an hour is definitely not the definition of moderation!

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            UK defines it clearly — except you can get various sizes so all bets are off.
            Still wine 125ml, 175ml, multiples of 125ml and 175ml
            (Source URL in followup comment)

        1. JR*

          In my experience, American restaurants almost always pour about 5 oz (which google tells me me is 147 ml), which is also the “official” designation for one glass according to government agencies here, in terms of monitoring units of alcohol consumed. They’ll typically mark it on the menu if it’s more (as in sparkling wine, which is often a 187 ml serving). Of course, they’re pouring by hand, so not a perfect science. And in banquet-type situations, where you aren’t paying by the glass, they’ll sometimes pour more.

          1. Fieldpoppy*

            Whereas in my experience (esp in California) a “glass” is 8 – 9 oz. It varies.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              Yeah, it really depends on the pour. On average a bottle of wine is 4 “glasses” and 750ml. So that’s where JR gets the 187 serving size! If you get someone who poured three smaller rounds the first time, they will just finish a bottle off, they’re not going to measure it exactly.

            2. JR*

              Ha, I’m in California too. Guess it’s place to place! But my sense is that most restaurants wants to get their 5 glasses worth out of a wine bottle.

          2. JSPA*

            Some countries have a line on the glass, to ensure the customer does not get short-changed; I wonder if this encourages restaurants to “over pour” a little.

      3. Turquoisecow*

        It depends a lot on the person and the size of the glass. Some people who are the size of NFL linebackers but don’t drink often might be pretty impaired on two glasses of wine, especially if they’re having a very light meal.

      4. Matt*

        I took a seminar in college that basically agrees with what you’re saying. The average male body’s BAC increases .02 with every “standard” drink (ie 5oz of wine). And your body can process .02 every hour. If you’re a bigger man, your body can handle more.

        That means you’d need to drink four glasses of wine in under an hour to be .08% and therefore shouldn’t drive. If boss man is having two-three glasses, over the course of an hour or two, he’s perfectly fine to drive.

        Buuut if it still makes LW uncomfortable none of that matters. But hopefully she feels better knowing these numbers.

          1. Zip Silver*

            Fun fact – .04BAC (or two glasses of wine) is the legal limit for airline pilots to fly.

            1. fposte*

              It’s wryly interesting to see how many countries have lower BAC limits for driving than that.

              1. JSPA*

                Less to hit, up in the air? But seriously, it’s probably a question of which faculties are most sensitive to low levels of alcohol. Perception, decision making, reaction time…

                I suspect that really sharp reaction time is far more often relevant on a four lane highway than it is (even) during takeoff and landing, unless you have a fierce crosswind.

                1. fposte*

                  I don’t think it was that coordinated–think it’s more that the FAA went for tighter regs than USDOT, and other countries went for tighter limits than both. Even the switch from .1 to .08 is in my living memory, including Louisiana’s failed push to hold out (couldn’t get federal highway money unless you complied).

          2. EH*

            My ex had a breathalyzer as a sort of party game, so I know that I don’t need to be anywhere near the legal limit to be unsafe to drive. If I drink enough to hit the limit, I am stumbling around and slurring, and that was true of most of the folks we hung out with, too.

            I always say, you don’t have to be obviously drunk to be impaired, and you might be fine to drive if nothing unusual happens, but if something runs into the road or another driver doesn’t see you, you need your reflexes to be reliable. If you’re buzzed, they won’t be and that’s when horrible things happen. You don’t have to be blitzed to kill people. Just unlucky.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Amen to that … I’ve seen the aftermath when the driver was stone cold sober… “JUST” tired.

        1. Agnodike*

          It’s actually not as simple a calculus as that – your BAC continues to rise even after you’ve stopped drinking, as more alcohol is absorbed into your system, so you can feel fine at noon and be impaired at 12:15 when you’re already driving. Many factors influence both alcohol absorption and metabolism, so it’s not really as simple as “0.02 in, 0.02 out every hour”. The “average male” is not a person who exists; I couldn’t tell you what my boss’s gastric blood flow is doing to their alcohol concentration gradient, nor how much alcohol dehydrogenase they produce (which has huge genetic variability), and I bet OP can’t tell that about their boss, either.

          If OP is looking at their boss and thinking “You seem impaired,” it doesn’t matter whether “the average person” would be impaired after consuming the same amount of alcohol. If someone seems impaired after drinking alcohol, common sense says that they’re probably impaired.

      5. Maria Lopez*

        Where is that the definition? Two glasses is a lot, especially if they are filled full each time. And I have known many people over the years who drink at lunch will also have a bottle in the office, so the boss may have already imbibed a bit earlier. Just speculation, but that is all we are all doing here.
        I grew up around drunks, and I know all the signs and all the excuses and have been in cars with them. They never thought they were too drunk to drive, but they were. They just had a little “buzz” on, which is the definition of being too drunk to drive.
        These drunks were all functional, rarely missing a day of work and actually appearing normal in social interactions because they were ALWAYS a bit tipsy. The real personality comes out when they, for whatever reason, are not able to drink for a week or two.

    6. Gerta*

      Yes, but this depends a lot on where they are, and also can be very hard to judge from person to person because biology is unpredictable and breathalyzer tests have hard limits. Where I live, for instance, the limit has been getting lower and lower, to the point where it’s barely safe to drink at all immediately before driving. If boss is having 2-3 glasses, I don’t think there is anything wrong with LW saying they have concerns, but perhaps framing it less as “you aren’t safe to drive” and more “these limits can often kick in earlier than people realise, and I wouldn’t want to see you get in trouble with the law”. Obviously that needs to be worded more elegantly within the context, but that’s where I would put the emphasis personally.

    7. Flash Bristow*

      This. However, I wouldn’t drink *at all* and drive; nor would my husband, and I’d be uncomfortable if anyone else around me did. I know that some people might be fine after one drink, but find it easier to say “none at all” . So they don’t forget and have an extra one (“whoops”) or react differently because they’re on a different strength drink that time, or coming down with a bug and don’t realise they’re not so strong, or… all sorts.

      So sure, boss might be fine, but I think it is perfectly relevant for OP to have a firm “no drinks at all” rule before they hop into someone’s car.

      1. JSPA*

        I have a friend who won’t drive with me even if I take a wine-taster sip, swirl and spit. Because…some tiny fraction of the already tiny quantity of alcohol can be directly absorbed by my mucous membranes. They’re fine with brandy in the chocolate mousse, or liquor chocolates, because those are sweets, not drinks. It’s clearly not logical. But you know what? It’s still their choice, and their right to say, “please don’t, or give me time to find someone else to drive me home.”

        (We’ve compromised on my dipping a fingertip and licking it.)

        1. fposte*

          I had a net friend who was a food scientist and did an entertaining experiment debunking “the alcohol burns off” myth. Short version: not unless you’re boiling the stuff for quite a long time.

    8. gecko*

      Realistically, even small amounts of alcohol under the legal threshold can impair driving ability. I think it’s arguable how the impairment compares to the impairment of distracted or tired driving, but it’s still there. BAC of .03 is less unsafe than .08 but still …not safe.

      Aside from that, I just don’t think it’s the purview of the comments section to persuade the OP out of feeling uneasy. She’s pretty correct to feel uneasy. Not wanting to drive with an impaired driver is perfectly ok and isn’t really overreacting.

      Being viewed of out of touch is in fact a consequence of attempting to go against the prevailing winds of culture–and in many US cultures, including your own it seems, drunk/tipsy driving is really seen as the norm. It’s an example of what the OP is asking how to navigate, rather than advice on what to do.

      1. fposte*

        Right, but I think it makes a big difference to the efficacy of the “You’ll get busted” technique to try to dissuade him. That’s what I’m hearing from people bringing up the BAC issue–that if you’re telling a 200-pound guy who’s had 2 glasses of white wine (I’m obviously inventing one specific scenario, not saying that’s the case) that he’s likely over the limit, that’s inaccurate enough to make it easy to dismiss your concerns.

        It’s just hard. It would be hard enough to make your case to a boss who was inarguably over the limit, but I think the OP may well be mistaken on this, and if so she’d be having to make the case to a boss who not only has the extensive comfort of having done this regularly without incident (which I know doesn’t make him safe on the road, but it makes him a lot harder to dissuade) but knows he’s not over or maybe even pushing the U.S. legal limit.

        So I agree with the making it personal about you, OP, rather than bringing up anything that might happen to him. I’d also consider raising it privately in a time completely separate from a lunch so there’s no emotional momentum toward lunch happening there for the OP to disrupt.

        1. NW Mossy*

          I’d agree, especially because the OP explicitly calls out that her boss is likely to get defensive. We can go down a pretty deep rabbit hole of studies and data, but throwing that at someone who’s inclined to stand firm on their established opinion is unlikely to move them meaningfully.

          As with a lot at work, you sometimes have to make a choice between being objectively right and being effective. In this case, the “hey, would you mind if I expense an Uber?” conversation is a lot less fraught than “I am judging your self-assessment of your fitness to drive a motor vehicle after consuming intoxicants.”

          1. fposte*

            Yup. Keep your eye on the goal here; let the outcome serve the principle and not the other way around.

    9. Observer*

      Are you seriously saying that absent slurred speech or coordination issues, they are probably ok to drive? That’s soooo far from the truth that even implying this negates the rest of your comments.

      The one who is out of touch with fact (as opposed to culture) is you.

      1. Sunflower*

        I don’t think it’s going to do well to debate when it is ok and isn’t ok to drive here. Everyone agrees that LW shouldn’t get in a car if she doesn’t feel safe and that’s her right to do so.

        The problem here is that while LW is totally right to make that choice, she’s anticipating facing some backlash from a higher up and that’s what she needs help navigating. It doesn’t matter if it’s fair or not- it seems fact that the boss is going to push back and/or get upset. If that’s the case, I’d imagine boss coming back to LW with any and all of these scenarios as why he is fit to drive and OP should be prepared. Once again, not saying it’s fair but it’s the situation.

        1. Observer*

          The issue is not fairness but factual accuracy. Telling the OP things that are simply not true is not going to do anything to help them navigate the situation.

          1. Alice*

            Speaking of factual accuracy — where did Aveline say “absent slurred speech or coordination issues, they are probably ok”?

            1. Observer*

              Re-read the comment. Aveline says that unless the OP is seeing these things what makes them think that the boss is close to the limit. So, yeah, they are most definitely implying that the boss is probably ok to drive, unless the boss is showing those behaviors.

              1. INeedANap*

                This isn’t accurate. Aveline ASKED whether OP had seen those things, giving OP some kind of guidelines that OP could use in determining whether or not the boss was close to the limit. You’re either deliberately misinterpreting the comment, or you’re reading meaning into it that isn’t there.

                1. Observer*

                  Firstly, those so-called guidelines don’t come close to being useful. So much so that if someone were actually using those things as guidelines, they would absolutely be putting people in danger. Secondly, rather than my reading anything in, it’s the reverse.

                  I’m not going to argue this any further. In addition to the questions and the way they are put, Aveline also says that the OP is probably going to look pretty out of touch – and says things like it’s probably not a problem because for the average 250 lb guy two drinks is not a problem.

      2. CupcakeCounter*

        That is not what Aveline is saying at all. They are simply pointing out a few arguments that may come from the OP’s declaration of not feeling comfortable getting in the car with boss. That is OP’s prerogative to make alternative arrangements and that was clearly stated.
        Aveline was pointing out that 2 glasses of wine are going to impact people differently based upon their build, the food they ate, etc… For someone who doesn’t drink and possibly is from a family/culture where drinking isn’t the norm, this could be information that they do not know.
        Either way if OP isn’t comfortable they do not need to get in the car but if they are under the impression that 2 drinks = significantly impaired, Aveline was pointing out that it is possible that isn’t the case.

      3. INeedANap*

        That was in no way stated or implied in the comment you’re replying to. In fact, Aveline made a point of referring the OP towards resources that will help bolster her determine this, rather than just making assumptions absent behavioral cues.

    10. CheeryO*

      I agree. If the boss is a 200 pound man, he probably isn’t going to like it if OP implies that he shouldn’t be driving after two drinks over an hour and a half lunch. If he’s 150 pounds and drinking three drinks over an hour-long lunch, then that is more unreasonable. If OP feels unsafe, they shouldn’t have to ride with him, period, but the approach should be different in the latter case – more of the semi-apologetic, personal hard line stance rather than anything about the boss’s drinking in particular.

    11. Jennifer*

      I had that question too. She is well within her rights not to get in the car with someone who has been drinking, even if it’s just half a glass of wine, if she’s uncomfortable, but I don’t think two glasses of wine makes someone unfit to drive. This is more about her personal comfort level than calling the boss an alcoholic.

      1. Jennifer*

        What I meant to add:

        but I don’t think two glasses of wine *necessarily* makes someone unfit to drive. Everyone handles alcohol differently.

      2. Observer*

        No one is calling the boss an alcoholic. “Drank too much to drive” is not in any way implying “boss is an alcoholic”. Making this about the OP’s irrational fears is not fair.

        It also makes me pretty angry, to be honest. It’s feeds so many tropes. And it’s how the vast majority of drunk driving accidents happen. “You’re over-reacting. It’s perfectly safe” Till it’s not.

        1. Jennifer*

          Nowhere did I say she was overreacting. Nowhere did I say the OP was irrational. I’m just saying that two glasses of wine does not necessarily put someone over the legal limit. This is more about someone’s personal comfort level, which is perfectly valid.

        2. INeedANap*

          Literally no one is telling OP “you’re over-reacting. it’s perfectly safe.” Everyone is telling OP that she is totally within her rights to not want to get in the car, but here are some other things to consider when approaching the topic with her boss – which again, literally everyone agrees she ought to do.

          1. Washi*

            Yeah, my interpretation of these comments is not that the OP should just get over it and ride with the boss. It’s that the boss probably has a completely different perception of this – mostly likely he would say that as a regular drinker, he is aware of his own limits and is careful to only have a few glasses of wine so he can drive everyone home.

            That’s why I think the suggestions of framing it as “it’s not about you, I have a personal thing about driving combined with any amount of alcohol” is so good, because it would be really easy for the boss to feel like the OP is accusing him of negligence and 1) react very badly and 2) dismiss her concerns as overly dramatic.

            1. INeedANap*

              Yes, I agree completely. There’s a HUGE difference between saying, “Hey, a regular and responsible drinker might feel defensive or accused if you frame this as a drunk-driving issue, and since this is your boss, maybe let’s consider ways to discuss it that would avoid that.” and saying “Get over it, it’s probably fine.”

              While I would absolutely respect someone’s desire not to ride with a driver who had any amount of alcohol, I also would hope that they would not immediately assume I was driving impaired; OP’s boss may feel the same.

            2. Observer*

              As a practical matter, sure, frame it as a “me thing.”

              The problem I’m addressing is that a lot of people are saying that it actually IS a “me thing”, and that the boss is probably perfectly fine. And I would say that given that the OP is there, and we are not, I’d trust her far more than all of the people who are talking about “a typical 200 lb man”, which we have no idea applies to the boss.

          2. Observer*

            That’s absolutely not true. Yes, everyone is kindly conceding that she has a right to not get into the car. But at the same time, most of those people are saying that the Boss is probably ok to drive.

            Sure, it’s better that they “allow” the the OP has the right to not get into a car if they are nervous. But a lot of them ARE saying that it’s probably just her nerves not based in reality.

            1. INeedANap*

              What on earth are you reading into these comments? “Kindly conceding?” “allow the OP the right”?

              You’re refusing to engage in good faith with comments that were made in good faith. No one is being condescending towards OP and “allowing them the right” – they are enthusiastically agreeing that OP has that right and absolutely should exercise it. No one is saying it is her nerves. Show me that quote, if it exists.

              1. Observer*

                I suggest you look at how many poeple aer saying things like “well, the average man” and “It’s probably OK” buuut etc.Here’s a quote from one commenter:

                If boss man is having two-three glasses, over the course of an hour or two, he’s perfectly fine to drive.

                Buuut if it still makes LW uncomfortable none of that matters.

                Not everyone is quite this explicit, but please don’t try to wave away the fact that people are ignoring that the OP is on the spot and essentially telling her that she’s probably wrong.

                1. fposte*

                  But she may *be* wrong about him being over the limit (which I differentiate sharply from “safe to drive”), and that affects what her viable options are here. That doesn’t make her a pearl-clutcher or overreactive, but it’s not tangential, either.

                2. Moclan*

                  There is this thing in science called “falsifiability.” Believe it or not, OPs can be wrong.

    12. noahwynn*

      This was my first thought as well. Two drinks won’t do much to me at all, especially over the course of a lunch. I often go to happy hour with coworkers where we have a beer or two and then all drive home.

      I understand completely if they don’t want boss to drive after drinking, because it makes some people uncomfortable. However, boss is unlikely to be impaired enough for it to be illegal for them to drive after two glasses of wine. Three though is the point where most of the charts start to tip into the territory of over .05% BAC. So, who knows, maybe they are going to places that serve large glasses of wine and/or boss is smaller than average.

      1. Blerpborp*

        I think that’s what it boils down to- the boss is likely fine to drive (by my definition at least) but not by the OP’s definition. The OP tried to use BAC as a metric but that’s clearly very hard since they haven’t actually breathelyzed the boss and, as many have pointed out, there are dangerous levels of impairment before you reach that point. That “fine to drive” level does get murky when you get beyond “one drink” and the legal limit and the OP is being cautious which we all agree is fine but it could read a little extreme by others (namely the boss, who likely has driven successfully after a meal and a couple glasses of wine numerous times…which doesn’t mean he isn’t impaired and doesn’t mean he couldn’t still get in an accident but likely does make him feel confident in his assessment of the situation.) I can say with certainty that I wouldn’t think twice about it and would gladly ride with my boss and have a couple of glasses of wine myself but life is all about weighing risks and rewards and I’m sure there are things I’m more cautious about than the OP.

    13. Knitting Cat Lady*

      Even though two glasses of wine might(*) not put you over the limit, and you might not FEEL impaired, depending on your body mass and metabolism two glasses of wine CAN lead to measurable increases in reaction time and the like.

      You wouldn’t be UNsafe to drive, but less safe.

      Intoxication doesn’t follow a set curve. The level of impairment is different for different people at the same BAC.

      (*)The legal limit is very different in different areas and countries.

    14. Name Required*

      “For me, two glasses of wine in an hour and I wouldn’t drive. My former NFL player friend would be fine. If you told him you were concerned about his driving, you’d be viewed as really out of touch.”

      If someone viewed you as “out of touch” because you don’t want someone who has drank alcohol to operate a motor vehicle, then that person is actually the one who is out of touch.

      Their BAC is irrelevant. Safe adults know not to drink and drive, even if they think they are fine.

      1. Alfonzo Mango*

        But her boss is not being a safe adult, so she needs to be prepared to have that discussion with that in mind.

      2. Liane*

        “Intoxication doesn’t follow a set curve. The level of impairment is different for different people at the same BAC.” (Knitting Cat Lady)
        Yes, And the level of impairment can be different in the same person on different occasions–how much, what, & when they’ve eaten last, or an interaction with the new prescription, among other scenarios.

        “Their BAC is irrelevant.” (Name Required)
        Agree with everything else in this post–but BAC is quite relevant, especially to law enforcement, the prosecutor, the judge, and probably to the defense attorney.

        1. Knitting Cat Lady*

          Don’t forget the insurance company. They’ll drop you like a hot potato at the fist hint of alcohol!

      3. Cheerio guv*

        Their BAC is irrelevant.

        I disagree with that. We have made a policy judgment that the BAC is what constitutes DUI. That means it is acceptable for that 200 lb man to have a glass of wine with dinner. (Some countries like Russia take a different approach.)

    15. Close Bracket*

      “If you don’t drink how are you sure he is over the legal limit? Is there some behavior you’re seeing that is concerning? ”

      Sometimes the legal limit is well below the BAC where behavior would be noticed. I get what you are saying that non-drinkers don’t always understand the subjective experience of drinking alcohol and how different quantities affect people differently depending on both biology and the situation. I’ve been there with a non-drinking boyfriend. But with legal limits being set so low in some places, you can be above the legal limit without noticing any effects on your behavior.

        1. Knitting Cat Lady*

          Wow. That used to be the limit in Germany about 20 years ago.

          If you’re a new driver, your allowed limit is 0.

          If you’re in an accident you’ll be fined/incarcerated depending on severity and lose your license if your BAC is above .03.

          If you’re above .05 and get caught you’ll temporarily lose your license and you’ll be fined between 500-1500€.

          On average two glasses of wine would put many people over the limit.

        2. SemiRetired*

          Lots of exceptions to that. For CDL holders, it’s .04, even when driving a personal vehicle.

          1. fposte*

            Right, there are exceptions by category, but the default per se limit is .08.

            Except there was a 2019 development that I only just found out–Utah has changed to .05. Only one in the nation.

    16. Lucille2*

      It isn’t clear where the OP is located and what the legal driving limit is. Many countries have legal limits that are lower than that in the US. In fact, not all US states have the standard US .08 limit, but a lower legal limit.

  10. MuseumChick*

    OP, do you know ANYONE who has gotten caught drunk driving? I ask because then you could truthfully, “I don’t want to get into personal details but I have a person in my life who drove after just 2 drinks and it didn’t end well. I know someone people are totally fine after drinking that much but after what I witnessed it’s a hard personal line for me.” It doesn’t matter if the person you know just got off with a warning or whatever. I know someone who got black out drunk woke up with his car in a ditch and several very pissed off cops around him. Luckily he didn’t hit anyone and was was not injured himself. He got what I would consider a slap on the wrist (luckily he learned and never did that again. Even stopped drinking for about a year and half.).

    Like Alison says, this makes it about you and not them.

    1. Anonadog*

      One challenge with saying it’s a hard personal like is that it hasn’t been so far. OP has already been doing these lunches for some time and will have to somehow explain why it’s a problem now.

      I think this is the right time for a little white lie. OP can say something recently happened that caused them to draw this hard line. (Maybe that “thing” was writing into AAM.)

      1. Emmie*

        “It’s a hard personal line. I haven’t brought this up because I didn’t know how to. I was afraid you’d take this as a personal attack on you and it may have professional consequences, but it’s completely based on my personal experience. ”

        Valid point, though OP can address that in her conversation with her boss.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I like the idea of dragging that “I’m afraid it might impact how you treat me” right out into the sunlight. Say it explicitly.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Not awkward at all if OP picks a story out of the week’s news as a reason to bring it up now.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      You don’t even have to actually know someone; honestly, this is the kind of scenario where I think a white lie is fine. “A friend of mine recently got a DUI when he felt totally fine, and it’s been hell for him — I’d hate to see that happen to you!”

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        And saying you “know someone” doesn’t specify how well you know them! We all know *of* someone who’s gotten into a DUI situation, just from reading or hearing the news. It’s far, far better to stretch the truth here than to suffer the anxiety and discomfort of getting into a car with someone whose driving you don’t trust. Even if they never get into an accident or get pulled over, the anxiety and discomfort are reason enough to avoid the situation.

    3. Adalind*

      +1 If you uncomfortable with the scrips above I think this is a good approach as well. It makes it more about you and how you feel. Some people get very defensive. I have a friend who got at least 2 DWI’s in his lifetime but luckily did not injure anyone else. He has since turned his life around (thank goodness). If you don’t know anyone then use our examples! You should not have to get into a car with someone you feel should not be driving.

  11. Camellia*

    I lost my father to a drunk driver. I think that anyone who drinks and drives should be charged with attempted murder if pulled over or if involved in an incident of any kind, and if deaths result, they should be charged with murder. They knowingly drink and choose to drive so that is no ‘accident’.

    LW, please do not ride with this person. Use Alison’s script or the other great suggestions from the commentariat. But be prepared for him to be very sensitive and disinclined to allow you to drive his car, so you may have to come up with other options. I hope this works out for you.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Go right ahead and turn those feelings to 11… I’ll join in with you. I’ve driven *alone* to a company lunch for a reason much like this. I found it interesting that the NEXT lunch I did not have an empty car.

    1. Ginger*

      I’m so sorry.

      In today’s world with Ubers, Lyfts and sounds like easily accessible public transit in this case (even if it is slow), there is absolutely, 100% no excuse to drink and drive. Even 1 glass. Even over a big meal. It is a selfish, selfish act.

      1. Cheerio guv*

        Even 1 glass. Even over a big meal. It is a selfish, selfish act.

        You are entitled to your viewpoint, but it does not get privileged over everyone else’s viewpoint. Our legislatures in the US have made BAC (not What Ginger Says) the standard, and rarely will one glass over a big meal result in impairment under that standard.

    2. ChimericalOne*

      I’m endlessly frustrated that the U.S. is such a car-centric culture exactly for this reason. When we cripple & neglect public transit and yet encourage drinking in most public establishments (bars, restaurants, even some movie theaters), we set ourselves up for a massive drinking-and-driving problem. Uber & Lyft have helped a lot in recent years — it’s much quicker & easier to catch a ride in many places than it used to be — but that’s still not affordable for lots of folks & so incentivizes them to judge themselves fit drivers despite not being so.

      We could greatly reduce traffic fatalities if we made just a few structural changes. I wish the U.S. cared enough to do so.

      1. Ginger*

        If you can afford to go out to drink, you can afford to set some $$ aside to do it responsibly.

        I know that’s not *you* using that excuse, I just see red when I hear/see people making excuses like that.

        1. TootsNYC*

          yes–consider the Uber (and the tip) to be part of the expenses of the evening. And set that money aside.

          If it means you have to buy one less drink, well then that’s what you can afford.

        2. PlainJane*

          This. Alcohol is expensive. If you can afford to drink, you can afford a safe ride home.

      2. fposte*

        Though I went down an internet hole on the alcohol-related traffic fatalities per country, and once you control for economics, the car-centricity of a country didn’t seem to matter as much as you might thing. (Neither did BAC, interestingly). I don’t think it’s completely irrelevant–it’s significant, for instance, that Canada had a higher fatality rate than the U.S.–but other countries like Portugal that don’t have quite the same love affair with the car are up there with us.

        (I’m not remotely disagreeing with the benefits of a less car-centered culture, to be clear, and the possible gains in this area; it just seems like it’s no longer a way in which the U.S. is an outlier when it comes to drunk driving.)

        1. Starbuck*

          You’d have to control for a lot of other things though, like drinking culture, typical drinking venues, walkability, etc. I’m sure most cities and towns in Portugal are more walkable than in the US, since they were built long before cars.

    3. Camellia*

      Thanks, everyone, for your kind responses; it is much appreciated. This is so much more common than many realize. I have a coworker who lost both mother and sister. Another, quite young, who has a permanent limp and faces a lifetime of pain. And that is just in the dozen cubicles around me.

      A bit down the road, a driver crossed four lanes of traffic and plowed into a team working on power lines. One person died after eleven days in the hospital. Four others suffered various broken bones and other injuries. And one man will be in a permanent-care home because, on a good day, he is lucky if he recognizes his wife, and can’t even perform most basic self-care like using the toilet.

      It’s frustrating and heartbreaking because it is a CHOICE to drink/drug and drive.

    4. PlainJane*

      I’m so sorry, Camellia. I’m not far off this hard line myself, because my father *was* the drunk driver. One of my earliest memories is regaining consciousness covered in my parents’ blood in a pickup that was on its side in a drainage ditch. Why? Because dad, who always insisted he was a better driver after he’d had a few… had had a few. And drove in the dark on the wrong side of the road with no headlights and creamed another car. I was lucky to not be badly injured (my mother was not so lucky), but I can tell you that an ambulance ride and hours in the ER is no picnic when you’re 4.

      Plan ahead or drink at home or hit up someone like me who’s happy to be your designated driver. Just don’t drink and drive.

    5. Thursday Next*

      I’m so sorry for your loss.

      I agree with you on the appropriateness of harsher penalties for injuries and deaths from DUIs. No one *has* to drive after drinking; if they have to drive, they shouldn’t be drinking in the first place. I think people underestimate their own impairment, as well as changes in the way their bodies handle alcohol over time, and the safest choice is to decouple driving from drinking altogether.

  12. Aphrael*

    If he’s driving over the limit, he’s not just a danger to you but to everyone on the road. Please consider anonymously reporting him to the police the next time he does it.

    1. Anonyish*

      + 1 An acquaintance of mine did this to a colleague who persistently drank and drove, and who didn’t stop after being spoken to by said acquaintance who tried to take a tactful approach first. Drink-driving kills people, there’s a reason it’s illegal and that it is becoming less socially acceptable in many places.

  13. AndersonDarling*

    I’d talk to the owner “I know everyone likes to drink at these lunches, so I wonder if we could all take an Uber together. Then if anyone wants to have that extra class of wine, we don’t need to worry about anyone driving.”
    Since the point is to have a “fancy” lunch, I don’t think they would mind the extra expense of an Uber, especially if you frame it from the perspective of the owner having the option of having one more glass than he normally would.

    1. Mockingbird 2*

      I like this. I would stand firm on not driving with him while drunk too, OP.

  14. Clorinda*

    If the issue with public transit is that you’ll take longer getting back to the office, can you leave the lunch a little earlier? I know it depends on transit schedules, which can be ridiculous, and you also want to take care not to come off as judgmental when you leave, but maybe it’s an option.
    Seriously though, if it comes down to a choice between getting in the car with a possibly impaired driver or being called judgmental, go ahead and judge.

  15. Delta Delta*

    Or offer to drive. Frame it in the terms that they like wine and you don’t drink at all, so you’re a perfect built-in designated driver.

  16. boredatwork*

    OP –

    I’m sorry you are dealing with this. I have very strong opinions about the consumption of alcohol and the driving of other people (or yourself). I have been the DD so many times.

    In my experience, the people who are doing this 1) think they are fine to drive 2) get VERY offended that you question their judgement.

    Others have suggested the “uber to really cut lose” and I suggest that route, otherwise you are probably going to have to be a stick in the mud and take public transit. it’s unfair that you should have to deal with this, and your boss is going to treat you differently, but it’s not worth *literally* dying over!

  17. Jennifer*

    I think the best solution is to offer to be the designated driver. Don’t offer to drive his car. That opens up an entirely new can of worms since I’m assuming you aren’t on his insurance.

    1. Agnodike*

      This may be regional, but where I live, occasional drivers are covered on just about all standard auto insurance policies.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’m wondering if “owner” means he could put her on as an employee.

  18. blink14*

    My advice would be to first offer yourself as the designated driver – if you have your own car and/or feel comfortable driving your boss’ car. Frame it like “I’m happy to be the DD, in case anyone wants to indulge a bit!” keeping it light will make it less like an attack on him (which it isn’t really, but he may take it that way).

    My second suggestion, if the first one isn’t an option or doesn’t pan out, is to suggest Uber or Lyft (assuming the service is available in your area). Same as above – everyone can cut loose a bit, your boss doesn’t have to take his car out and worry about parking downtown, etc.

    If neither of those work or don’t work more than once or twice, then I’d approach your boss. One thing to be very aware of is he may have a good understanding of what his body can take and whether or not a couple of glasses of wine will put him over the legal limit. He may think – oh two glasses of wine over X amount of time with lunch won’t put me over the limit, it’s no problem to drive everyone back. So his intention may not be to drive under the influence, but drive everyone back because he has a good idea of what would qualify him as legally driving while intoxicated. I think you’ll need to assume that may be the case, and frame your conversation with him as not wanting to be driving by anyone who has had a drink, no matter if that’s 1 drink or 3.

  19. infopubs*

    If you own your own car, perhaps you could ALWAYS have a personal errand to run in the neighborhood of the restaurant right after lunch. Drive yourself both ways, and work a little later that day to make up the time for running your errand.

  20. irene adler*

    If the boss really wants to treat the staff, why not travel in style and rent a limo for the occasion?

    (for both ways)

    I recognize this is the same as Uber, but sounds a little more special.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Teehee, I actually made a joke to my boss about getting the “luxury”/”black car service” that Uber offers for our last company party.

      Having grown up with a limo driver as a neighbor/adopted uncle, I have a huge spot in my heart for luxury rentals.

  21. Lady Phoenix*

    This whole company sounds off to me. You sure there’s not any additional red flags going on?

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Why? What are you sensing exactly?

      Drinking at work lunches is a thing that happens all the time. I used to bill for a restaurant who always had business lunches/dinners and they had accounts…it was 50/50 on if their staff ordered drinks and often it wasn’t just wine or beer they were ordering.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I worked in a field where this was really standard; I suspect also its frequency varies somewhat by location.

        1. BookishMiss*

          Yep, credit union branch I worked at was in the same parking lot as a decent bar. We went as a group a couple of times a month.

      2. Agnodike*

        Why would it make a difference if it was wine, beer, or spirits? It’s one thing if staff are pounding shots, but there’s no difference between a serving of alcohol diluted in wine and a serving of alcohol diluted in a gin and tonic.

        1. fposte*

          Well, it may; serving size volume isn’t automatically adjusted across drinks to keep the alcohol level consistent.

          1. Agnodike*

            I think bit’s much more likely that “a beer” contains more than one standard drink than that a restaurant over-pours liquor, which is significantly more expensive.

            1. fposte*

              I agree that a single bar serving of most whiskeys is not likely to contain more alcohol than a single bar serving of wine. My point was that you can’t assume that any single order has the same amount of alcohol as any other single order.

              1. Agnodike*

                Yes, I understand that. It seems like a bit of a semantic point to make, given that the main thrust of what I was saying was that it’s problematic to assume that “just” wine and beer is OK, but liquor somehow crosses a line into problematic drinking, which is what the comment I initially replied to implied.

    2. StillWorkingOnACleverName*

      I came from an industry (insurance) in which this was quite common. Now I’m in education, and we only drink after work, to my knowledge. But liquid lunches are definitely still a thing, to the point where people who didn’t imbibe were seen as strange or uptight. I’m not saying that’s right; I’m just saying that’s the way it was in that industry.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        We used to have to break down our restaurant billing to bill out alcohol separately for the university. Then sit back and see if the department/event was one that “allowed” for alcohol to be expended. We had to eat a few billings due to people ordering beers with a lunch and it wasn’t actually allowed *head-desk*

    3. Not A Manager*

      Here’s why I think there are red flags:

      “About once every six weeks, the owners take us out for a fancy lunch downtown. This is considered a perk and a treat but it is definitely compulsory. At the lunch everybody else drinks, not to excess, but definitely two or three glasses of wine each. … They consider themselves gastronomes and wine aficionados, and I don’t think my boss will take kindly to me insinuating that he isn’t fit to drive.”

      Frequent, long fancy lunches that are compulsory, with people who consider themselves aficionados, in a small office, sound to me a lot like “we are all family here and by family I mean that I’m your dad and you have to do what I want and act happy about it.”

      The fact that the other employee “goes along” rather than make waves suggests that Boss is going to take anything personally that upsets his “gourmets who lunch” fantasy.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        I don’t think a mandatory lunch every 6 weeks where the company pays is that unreasonable. That is part of soft requirements of the job, building relationships, getting along with coworkers and/or networking . Where I work the company will pay for us to go out to lunch about once every two months. While it is not 100% required, it would look bad if someone did not have a good reason for not attending. Our normal lunch time allotted is one hour, but when we go out to lunch it often will last an average of 1:30 to 2 hrs, but time above an hour is still counted as work time. If the boss was expecting people to go and pay for their own lunch or subtracting the extra time above 1 hr from their pay that is a different story.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Would you feel like this if they hosted catered lunches instead? A lot of places will bring in pizza or some kind of service for a meal as well, every 6-8 weeks. Many will expect that you hangout and not just dart off to your desk with your lunch.

        It’s nothing of the “like family” mentality, it’s a morale and appreciation sort of thing.

        Literally the only issue here is that they do not get Ubers instead of the nonsensical owner driving but that’s possibly just a thoughtless issue on their part.

        Unless they’re being forced into uncomfortable conversation or are being asked personal questions, then it’s really just a standard work lunch but the ownership has a taste for certain food.

        I’m really tired of a few snobs and weirdos making it hard on people who just enjoy trying out local food and winery options. I think it’s the wording that’s triggering this but in reality, they’re probably not snotty hipsters, they just like to try out assorted wines and chat about the flavors. I say this as a real hillbilly who is happy to do wine tastings with my much classier well mannered and cultured friends.

        1. Not A Manager*

          I think a pizza lunch in the office every couple months is different from a required restaurant luncheon. I’m not sure who you’re calling a snob and a weirdo. I happen to like both local food and good wines, but I wouldn’t want my boss to make that a requirement of my job.

          1. Chope*

            God forbid the boss take his employees out for a lunch. I for one really am glad you are Not a Manager.

            1. SarahTheEntwife*

              I enjoy department lunches, but plenty of people don’t, and I agree with NAM that it’s problematic to make this a required thing. Restaurant lunches also make it harder for people with dietary restrictions to discreetly bring their own food compared to ordering in pizza or sandwiches.

      3. Courageous cat*

        That’s a lot of speculation. Some companies just like to go out to eat and have fun. People feel like they’re “going along with” a lot of things in companies and it can happen even in the most laid-back ones.

  22. Jennifer*

    Is it possible to just decline lunch altogether? Would that cause problems with your job? If none of these suggestions work and you feel this strongly about it, that may be your only option.

    1. Yvette*

      It probably would, there are only four of them, and if she comes up with a plausible excuse as to why she cannot make it they would probably offer to re-schedule.

  23. SheLooksFamiliar*

    I have very mixed feelings about the third option, approaching the other owner/wife. She may see her husband put away several drinks but may not see it as a problem. I’m not qualified to diagnose enablement, but I gotta wonder…

    In my case, one spouse drank to excess and insisted on driving, and approaching the other spouse didn’t go well for me: ‘You’re going overboard/he’s not that bad/don’t make such a big deal out of it/what are you saying?!/he’s not a drunk!’ And so on. I said the same things Alison suggested, almost verbatim, and was met with pushback, defensiveness, and anger. For family and friends, I could deal. At work, I’d be very cautious about approaching the spouse, period.

    This is a tough situation, OP, but your safety is not negotiable. Please don’t get in the car if you feel unsafe!

    1. Leo*

      Yeah, agreed. I’ve got a married couple for bosses. Once when he had too much to drink after end of week work drinks it was mentioned if he should be driving, he was completely offended. She became defensive too, and they drove. They both took the question (from another owner of the company as well) way to personally and it was quite horrible, and to this day lowered my opinion of both.

      Basically beware of married couple bosses and saying anything critical of one to the other, not everybody is professional enough to handle that. For that reason I wouldn’t try option three, but you know your workplace better than I letter writer.

  24. Kelsi*

    Speaking as someone who made the mistake of getting in the car with her drunk (but doing a good job of pretending not to be) boss in the past–you have GOT to make it a priority not to get in that car, OP. Fortunately the drive in my case was short and at a time when the road was completely empty, and we made it to our destination in one piece, but it was a really frightening experience and could have gone way worse. I will never, ever be cavalier about riding with someone who’s been drinking again.

  25. The Wall Of Creativity*

    Call the cops & grass him up. Tell them his reg number, the time when you expect to be leaving the restaurant and that he’s always driving over the limit. You’d be doing the world a favour.

    1. Jennifer*

      I really hope you’re joking. Nowhere did she say that he was over the legal limit. Just that she didn’t feel comfortable getting in the car with him.

      Calling the cops over nothing and potentially getting someone in legal trouble when they may have done nothing wrong is terrible.

      1. fposte*

        I’m not on board with WoC’s plan in this situation, but the OP did say she believes her boss is over the legal limit to drive. I don’t know if she’s correct given the amounts she notes, but it was a thought in her original post.

        My practical concern with this action is that 1) the cops where I live aren’t likely to chase somebody down unless you give a location, which will give the OP away and 2) if the dude isn’t over the legal limit, he’s not likely to change his habits but is likely to be pretty mad.

        1. Jennifer*

          True, she may believe that, but I don’t know how she would know that after only two drinks spread out over two hours, accompanied by a meal. It’s possible, but there’s no way of knowing that for sure. Again, she has every right not to get in the car with him, but this is about her comfort level and personal beliefs.

          The cops where I live are prone to find something to arrest you for even when you haven’t done anything wrong, so I try not to call them unless it’s unavoidable.

          1. fposte*

            Yes, I’m with you on the focus on the OP’s discomfort being both the most authentic and effective tack here, and I agree with you that the OP may be misunderstanding where the legal limit would be. (Though of course she may also be right about her boss being over the limit and wrong in her count of how much wine he’s had–if we’re considering the discrepancy between the number of drinks and assessment of BAC significant, we have to consider the error could be in either assessment.)

            Drunk driving is such a troubling and emotional subject that it can be hard to discuss nuance once it’s come up. I’m reminded of when my father was on a jury (two weeks after he’d retired from being a lawyer, so he was startled to be impaneled). The charge was drunk driving, and several of his fellow jurors went straight to “We must convict, because drunk driving is a terrible thing” and completely bypassed that whole middle part of deciding whether the guy had actually *done* it.

            1. I've been lucky with my managers!*

              Fposte, just a note to let you know how much I consistently enjoy and learn from your posts. I feel that your advice, like Alison’s, strikes the appropriate balance between practicality and principle, and you always keep what’s best for the OP front-and-center rather than taking the opportunity to pile on or preach to the choir. I really appreciate you.

      2. Sleepless*

        If he’s not over the limit when they pull him over, he won’t be in trouble, right? But I bet he will be. Two to three glasses over lunch sounds like a lot to me. I wouldn’t ride with anyone who had had that much.

        1. Jennifer*

          “If he’s not over the limit when they pull him over, he won’t be in trouble, right?”

          That’s not how the world works for many people.

          1. Observer*

            It generally *IS* though, for people who can afford big fancy cars, unless they are POC. It shouldn’t be that way, but it’s true.

            1. Jennifer*

              Not where I live. We don’t know the boss’s race, but there were some overzealous cops here who decided they could visually determine whether or not someone had smoked marijuana and arrested people based on that assumption, even though it would take months for the actual drug test to come back. This happened to people of all backgrounds and races. So yes, it’s worse for POC, but anyone can become the victim of an overzealous cop.

            2. Jennifer*

              We don’t know the boss’s race. But in any event, anyone can be the victim of an overzealous police officer.

      3. Bagpuss*

        But she wouldn’t be getting someone in trouble who had done nothing wrong. If he is pulled over for suspected drink driving and is under the limit, he will be fine, if he is pulled over and is over the limit, then he has done something wrong.
        (I don’t know how it is in the US, but here in the UK, if he was suspected of drink driving he would be given a roadside breath test, so would only be arrested if there was scientific evidence of his being over the limit)

    2. Alfonzo Mango*

      That sounds like a self-destructive response. Maybe if LW doesn’t want to work there anymore. I can’t imagine the boss trusting LW if they found out they did that.

      1. mamma mia*

        I’m unclear as why you’re repeating my comment back to me as if I were a child, but yes, I live in a busy urban area where the cops have better things to do than play Minority Report.

        1. Name Required*

          I think you’re probably entirely clear why I’m repeating it back to you. It’s not playing Minority Report to report drinking while impaired or under the influence of alcohol — it’s an actual crime that kills people.

          1. mamma mia*

            You’re right, I should have straight up called you condescending instead of dancing around it. My sincerest apologies. If you actually read what the Wall of Creativity was suggesting, which, to be clear, was to call the police BEFORE they had actually left the restaurant, you’d know that it is not reporting drunk driving because the boss wouldn’t have even been driving at the time of the call. You don’t report someone for planning on driving drunk; that is inherently ridiculous. But I really appreciate you telling me drunk driving kills people. Really helpful stuff there.

          2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

            Yes, and in an urban area where the cops triage downwards from “multiple homicide”or “Emotionally disturbed person on the playground” a “Someone who might be at or slightly over the legal limit for drunk driving” would be a low priority unless he has caused an accident. Even then I’ve lived places where the cops didn’t come for car accidents unless an ambulance was required.

            1. Name Required*

              I don’t think Wall of Creativity’s suggestion is a good or effective one for OP’s ask. I don’t support it.

    3. Janie*

      Please don’t suggest calling police so casually. That could be dangerous for the OP if they’re a POC.

  26. Sunwise*

    I know someone who commonly has two beers AND a glass of wine or two at dinner. He may or may not be impaired, but there is no way I’m getting into the car if he’s driving. I just am not willing to risk it.

  27. Tammy*

    If you’re all out to lunch for a work event and something happens (say, a car accident where someone gets hurt), is your Workers’ Comp insurance carrier going to make the alcohol consumption an issue? I genuinely don’t know here, which is why I’m asking, but it might be another piece of ammunition for the “if we’re drinking, let’s arrange another mode of transport” conversation. And I say this as someone who’s lost friends to drunk driving accidents, and who once made the mistake of getting into a car with a client who was MUCH more intoxicated than I realized. Thankfully, that wasn’t a fatal mistake for me, but it could easily have been. (As it was, we had to reschedule some afternoon meetings that day, because he passed out unconscious on the floor under his desk when we got back to his office.)

  28. mamma mia*

    I would not recommend Alison’s strategy of getting the other admin on your side. Talk to the boss or co-owner directly if it bothers you. If I were the other admin and generally okay with the situation (personally, I don’t think having two or three drinks over the course of a couple hours necessarily means the person isn’t ok to drive but it’s obviously situation dependent), I would definitely have a negative reaction to “This is really important to me, and I really need you backing me up on this.” It strikes me as a little melodramatic. My reaction would be, “if its important to you, YOU do something about it; don’t drag me into it.” I totally understand that you’re uncomfortable with the drinking and if you don’t want to get in the car, you shouldn’t but take the issue to people with power to actually change the situation.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is where it’s a “know your audience” moment. You are right, the other admin may be like you. Or they may be like me and if someone said “This is making me super upset and I’m scared to go alone to the boss about it, will you help me out?” I say “Sure, I’ll go to bat for you over this.” Because I honestly don’t always think about things like that, I may not even notice that he had three glasses at any given time, I rarely count drinks of my own, let alone others. So I would just assume he had a glass, ignorantly. So if my coworker, who was otherwise a calm, easy to get along with, decent human said “I noticed Jim had 3 glasses of wine the other day at lunch and it spooks me to be in the car with him.” I would be happy to join forces.

      So seriously, it depends on the person they’re dealing with and it’s fine to ask someone for assistance if you’re willing to take “you know what, this is really not something I want to get involved in.” as an answer.

  29. Jennifer*

    Also, is driving separately an option? Maybe say you want to stop and run an errand on the way and you’ll meet them there? Maybe create a regular Thursday errand (or whatever day the lunches take place). I always drive separately whether it’s a work event or personal just because I don’t like depending on someone else for transportation. I like being able to leave when I’m ready to leave. We all have our pet peeves :)

    1. Jennifer*

      I just saw that you don’t have your own car. I think then public transit home is your best option. Still blame it on having to run an errand. He may offer to take you so imply that it’s private in nature.

  30. cactus lady*

    Hi OP! Let’s be friends. I’m going to tell you a story about what happened to me a few years ago. Feel free to tell your boss that this happened to your friend (me!) and now you’re uncomfortable getting into a car with anyone who has had anything to drink:

    I was out with friends and we had had some drinks, nothing too crazy. We ran into some other friends and one of them (friend of a friend I didn’t know well) offered to drive me home since we were going to the same general area. I saw him have half a beer over the course of a couple hours, so I figured it was fine. I got in the car with him, and the next thing I knew that car was in a ditch on the side of the road. And he got out and left me in said ditch, wouldn’t help me at all. Finally, someone ELSE who was at the scene realized there was a second person involved and helped me out of the ditch. Did I mention it had been raining? And the ditch was full of blackberry bushes. Turns out the dude had been drinking before I ran into him and was way over the limit, but “felt fine”. He got arrested, and there was a whole big legal mess that I was involved with afterwards even though I barely knew the dude. I still have neck and shoulder problems from the impact even though it was 5 years ago, and I will never, ever, ever get in the car with someone who has been drinking ever again.

    Please feel free to edit/embellish as needed to get the point across to your boss. Good luck!

    1. anon for this*

      Oof, I’m sorry that happened to you ;-(.

      As a “grateful member of al anon,” as we say, I think a lot of people have different triggers about alcohol, esp. when it’s the person who’s an authority in your life who’s drinking. Your story is a big scary one, but a lot of people have a lot of anxiety about being around people who are drinking, especially when they are in situations where they don’t have a lot of options for leaving. It’s a thing, regardless of how drunk/not drunk/excessive/not excessive the actual impact of the consumption is.

      OP, I feel for you. I would feel trapped and anxious. I think the advice to try to find a way to gently suggest Ubers for All! is the best advice. I hope it goes well.

  31. agnes*

    This is where i think a little white lie or an ambigious answer might work

    “Because of some of my past experiences I don’t ever ride with anyone who has been drinking—even a little bit. I get very anxious about it. Can I offer to drive us? Or could we take an Uber? If not I will try to make other arrangements.”

    1. ursula*

      Yeah, I was wondering if it would be hard to pull the “I have a personal rule, sorry” move if you have (until now) been getting into the car more or less without complaint. It would have to be a pretty new “rule.”

      I know everyone has their own morals around lying, but in this case I would personally be comfortable saying something like, “Actually, someone in my family had an accident recently with some pretty bad consequences after just a couple of drinks, and it’s made me really squeamish about this stuff. I feel weird about this, but can I ask that we take a taxi/uber/that I drive/etc?”

      (not that you should need to do any of this….)

      1. TootsNYC*

        Or say, “it’s been bothering me all along, and I’ve realized I can’t just keep ignoring it.”

    2. fposte*

      I think this is good language, and it also has the virtue of being true. I think she can tweak it a little bit to acknowledge she’s been accepting it until now, but that doesn’t mean she has to do it forever.

  32. person*

    If its every 6 weeks, find an errand to run on the way back to the office, take a half day or go to the doctor.


    Have a story at the ready of friend who recently got a DUI after having a few glasses of wine mid-day. Suggest an Uber.

  33. TootsNYC*

    Bring up insurance. And the company’s insurance as well.

    That surely it would be a huge cost to the company, even if it’s only a fender bender.

    My mother made me promise to never ride in a car with someone who had been drinking–I was to call her, no matter what time of night it was, if I couldn’t get a way home without riding with a driver who’d been drinking.

    “I don’t care if it’s 3am and you’re all the way across the state–I will get in the car in my pajamas and drive to get you if I have to. And I promise I won’t be mad–I will be grateful that you didn’t risk yourself like that.”

    It made a huge impression. I would cite it.

    If you have your own car, you can just say, “I’m going to drive myself” and then just do it. Don’t make a big stink, just do it.

  34. SenseANDSensibility*

    Well your boss sounds like a selfish ahole who doesn’t care if he puts you or others at risk. You absolutely have a right to refuse to get in that car. I’d insist on calling a taxi on your own to return to work the next time & every time if he doesn’t change. You could also call your local police DWI tip line to alert them to a drunk driver on the roads. Maybe if he gets arrested he’ll change his ways, but unfortunately most drunk drivers never change, neither do our laws, which allows someone to keep driving after umpteen DUI charges.

    1. fposte*

      I’m afraid I’m skeptical on that. It doesn’t sound like they’re overserving in any way that would leave them liable, and people who’ve had two or three drinks drive home from bars all the time.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        The restaurant might not WANT to be … but yes in some jurisdictions, the person/business who served the person who causes a DUI accident is liable under the law.

        1. fposte*

          Yes, that’s true, but it’s still not likely to result in a facility’s cutting somebody off after one drink or refusing to let them drive after two. If they’re in a jurisdiction with dram shop laws, they’re likely insured accordingly, but it’s tough to insure against loss of custom when people stay away from the place that won’t sell them a second glass.

  35. Flower*

    Unfortunately what makes this tricky is that you don’t drink yourself… It really, really shouldn’t matter, but in my experience it tends to make people more sensitive to being addressed about anything regarding alcohol when the person addressing it doesn’t drink. (It even sometimes comes up when *I* mention it, and I do occasionally drink, but stop at the first bit of tipsiness because personal reasons.)

    It’s incredibly frustrating that it happens, but that fact would make me tentative about bringing it directly as a safety concern. I like the suggestions of framing it as “but what if something else happens and you get a DUI even though you’re probably fine?” (You shouldn’t need to frame it this way, but I think it’s more likely to succeed.)

    Your concerns are absolutely valid.

  36. AnonNurse*

    I’ve unfortunately known someone that was killed by a drunk driver so I definitely have a hard and fast rule about being in a car with anyone who has been drinking. I would tell my boss that and even give the example of my friend killed when she was simply out on a beautiful Sunday afternoon but someone who’d been drinking crossed the centerline and my friend never made it home. I am sorry you even have to have the conversation and I hope it goes well.

  37. Not A Manager*

    I want to take a different tack here. All of the advice about “you don’t have to drive with someone who makes you uncomfortable” is correct. You don’t HAVE to do it. But refusing to get in the car might have a cost to you, and I think you should be aware that you might not be able to mitigate that cost.

    A lot of people are very defensive about feeling that they are being judged w/r/t drinking, and especially as to whether they are impaired. This is a fact. Not everyone is, no one should be, but a lot of people are. In my opinion, “mom and pop business that hosts compulsory gastronomic and oenophilic outings on the regular” is likely to fall into the category of “places where people will be defensive about their day drinking.”

    You might have some luck with the strategies suggested about expressing concern regarding insurance, pesky and unreasonable DUI laws, being rear-ended and then breathalyzed, etc. Maybe. I honestly think if you express anything like “I’m just very weird about getting into a car with anyone who’s been drinking at all,” even for Good Made Up Reasons, you will risk that your bosses will feel judged and hold it against you.

    I’m not saying not to do that. I am saying that there could be a cost, up to and including feeling forced out of your company for “culture fit” reasons. You should read any of the advice that people have given you with a VERY careful eye to the nuances of your bosses and your company. You might still decide that the risk of getting into the car with your boss is too high, and that you’re willing to take these other risks in order to avoid that. This would be perfectly reasonable. Just be aware of these other risks.

    1. Name Required*

      People are very attached to drinking and their drinking habits, and get incredibly defensive about it. I don’t think people will get any less defensive if you bring up DUI laws, insurance, etc. OP making it about herself rather than bringing up these other things seems less likely to make someone defensive, especially if she frames it as a “personal thing on her side”.

      1. L. S. Cooper*

        People get defensive even if it’s a personal thing. I had a dear family member die suddenly and horribly due to drug use when I was young, and I have a huge history of alcoholism in my family; saying that I, personally, don’t feel comfortable with drinking to excess STILL makes people mad.

      2. Flower*

        I disagree with that.

        For some reason, drinking (in particular) has this weird effect where if you make anything related to it about you, *especially* if you’re someone who doesn’t drink, regardless of the reason, people think you’re judging them. People who don’t drink or don’t drink to the point of the drunkenness typically know this. The LW knows this – that’s what the “but I don’t care if others do” line typically means – it’s an automatic deflection because “I don’t personally drink” on its own is frequently assumed by people who do drink to mean “I don’t drink alcohol and I AM JUDGING YOU.” (Side note – this also regularly happens with vegetarianism.)

        I think making it about a personal rule ends up sounding to the recipient like “I think you’re making a bad choice, and I am making a good choice, and that means I think I’m better than you.” It’s not right, and it’s not how it should be, but I expect that’s how it works out.

        1. Maria Lopez*

          I personally tell people that I don’t usually drink because I don’t hold my liquor well (I don’t, but I also don’t like the taste of most of it either), and it has gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. I rarely get pushback and people don’t often ask for details.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Maybe Alison just needs to emboss a disclaimer across every post that says “Reminder, some people are dillweeds and pushing back may result in termination of employment.”

      Since it’s the truth about EVERYTHING we see here brought up. People get terminated for other people stealing their lunches and for asking to change a dress-code.

      We don’t need to remind people that this is all “at your own risk” advice. There is nothing in this world that may not backfire on you.

      I had someone threaten to fire me for not being able to personally shoulder the duties of 3 full time employees at once and asking for another manager to take on a task for a single day, a task they had pawned off on me after I arrived and under the impression I had the time [I did when I started and only had 1.5 jobs to do] to stay on top of it. Yet we tell everyone here to let your boss know if they are piling work and getting weighed down, every-single-time without “but you may get fired for doing this” attached.

      1. Not A Manager*

        Okay? I’m not sure what your point is, really. I’ve misused some pixels?

    3. Lucille2*

      I agree that this might not go over well with the boss, but I think OP still needs to speak up because failing to do so might have severe consequences. It might not, but it isn’t worth the risk.

      Full disclosure: I lost a family member to a drunk driver. This is my hot button issue and a hill I’d be willing to die on if I were in OP’s position. The situation the boss is putting his staff in is really, really not ok.

  38. Ra94*

    My toxic boss did this after our Christmas party. She’d promised to pay for everyone’s (so, two people’s Ubers) home and told us to get dropped off at work, so we did…and then insisted she drive me home so we could ‘discuss work’ on the way. We’d had a small bottle of sake each and a ton of food, and I was probably hovering around the limit myself, so didn’t think to worry…only in the car I realized that as a 5’2″ lady to my 5’9″ height, the booze had hit her harder and she started ranting about her marriage and weaving between lanes. I held my breath the whole way home and made a note to stay sober and take my own car the next time.

  39. MissDisplaced*

    I would volunteer to be the designated driver as I don’t drink more than say a glass of wine.
    But if you volunteer, then of course you can’t drink even if you want to. Perhaps you can take turns? But if you guys are all drinking, someone really should be a DD at these lunches.
    But, I’m with you OP in that you’re rightly concerned. I’ve lost friends and family over the years to drunk driving.

  40. Brownies*

    Right before you leave the restaurant, call (anonymously) the cops and report a suspected drunk driver – give the vehicle description and location. Do not tell anyone what you are doing, not even your co-worker. Let the cops issue a DUI and if they check him out and find that he is not impaired, them so be it.

  41. Strict About This*

    I am a person with a strict personal rule about not drinking any amount of alcohol before driving, and not getting in the car with anyone who has (side note: I do enjoy alcohol myself, and I know that people can drink and be under the legal limit/not be impaired – my discomfort lies with my/others’ ability to judge where that line is and when it has been crossed).

    Personally, over the years, I have learned that the easiest way to navigate situations like this is to say that I prefer to drive because I get carsick as a passenger. I know I should probably be more honest about it, but no matter how much you chalk it up to your own personal quirk or what context you try to put around it, people get offended and argue when you mention ANYTHING about alcohol and driving.

    You could say something like “I wasn’t comfortable mentioning this before since I’m new, but I get really carsick when I’m the passenger in a vehicle. Last time I was really affected and decided that I should just go ahead and say something. Would it be possible for me to drive when we go to lunch?” If they know you take public transit you could add “For some reason, buses/trains/etc. don’t seem to bother me the same way riding in a car does!”

    1. Strict About This*

      Darn! I just saw the OP’s update that they cannot legally drive someone else’s car.

      In case anyone in the US has this problem, the advice stands! :)

  42. BelleMorte*

    This may have already been covered.. but.. it may be more than just your personal safety at risk.. you could be legally responsible.

    Depending on the laws of your region, you may actually be liable if your manager gets into an accident. We had a woman drive drunk here with two friends, one who was drinking, one who wasn’t. They crashed badly into another car, and killed two occupants of that car.

    All three were held liable for the accident, were charged and found guilty. It wasn’t only the woman who was driving drunk, but the one who were complicit in the fact that she was driving drunk, they not only did not report it, but supported her driving by getting in the car themselves. Granted, we take a really hard line on drunk driving here, but this may be a reality for your region as well.

  43. JSPA*

    If the other employee is comfortable with “It’ll probably be fine,” and you only have to look after yourself, take a tangent: have an errand to do that meshes up well with the connection’s you’d be making on transit. Explain to the boss that your focus isn’t great after such a big, nice meal, so you’re using the time to pick up [some item available locally that your business uses, that’s not worth shipping] which is, due to [parking / opening hours / whatever] so much easier / more enjoyable to do via transit. You’ll be back later, with a clear head, some exercise, and the item(s) in question.

    1. Mia Rose*

      The other admin guy agrees that it isn’t ideal but goes along with it because “it’ll probably be fine.” doesn’t come across as comfortable. I mentioned this in a comment further above, and the fact that the power imbalance in this situation is not ideal. I wish people in positions of power would not put their employees in uncomfortable situations such as this one.

  44. Leela*

    As someone who was recently slammed into from behind on the highway, I’d be really, really angry if I knew that someone was driving under the influence and no one did anything about it because “it’s probably fine”!

    As Alison said, it’s not just your own safety being taken into account here. I was injured and if I’d been driving my nephew as I sometimes do, he could be injured or dead. PLEASE do not allow driving under the influence to happen because you’re uncomfortable; you won’t be the only one affected! Even if you’re not actively saying no frankly I do think you’re responsible for reporting this to the police anonymously.

  45. tangerineRose*

    How about saying something like “You know, the police have gotten stricter and stricter about alcohol – even if you aren’t technically impaired, it’s a lot easier to get a cab or something than worry about getting a DUI.

    1. tangerineRose*

      FYI, I don’t drink, and I’m nervous that this boss is drinking and driving. I just think the way I suggested phrasing it might work on the boss.

  46. TechWorker*

    Adding a second driver onto insurance sometimes doesn’t cost more than an admin fee (I think ours was £20) so driving your boss’ car might not be completely out of the question. (Or rather, if he baulks at the cost of a cab every time it would be cheaper pretty quickly).

    That obviously depends on whether you’d feel comfortable driving your bosses car/whether he’d even let you/could lead to different problems, but I think the insurance thing alone shouldn’t rule it out!

  47. Kahunabob*

    Don’t drink and drive. It’s as easy as that, isn’t it? Or at least it should be.
    If this boss person is willing to take a risk on that, what will he risk with the company? I’d consider that a red flag to be honest. You don’t want the legal hassle if things do go south and he causes an accident on the company dime.
    I’d take a long hard look in the mirror and at your job circumstances. Is this the only flag? Or are there others?

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Why would it? He has employees and he wouldn’t be in jail forever, barring it being multiple offenses, which we have no indication of.

      I’ve had employees who have to deal with the aftermath of their DWI’s and they didn’t lose their jobs for it, the dude most likely won’t lose his business unless it’s a regulated field or licensing is involved and even then it’s not necessarily going to do much more than being an added stress for the duration of the time it takes to complete the court ordered requirements.

  48. Middle Manager*

    My father is blind and lost much of his physical mobility because of a terrible car accident where the driver was under the influence. It’s not a small thing. It’s a very real safety risk. It’s totally okay to insist on needing an Uber, taxi, or to drive yourself separately.

  49. No Fun Nellie*

    When mobile devices were first A Thing, I went with a group of colleagues from all over the U.S. to a retreat in the San Francisco area. We met at the airport and divided up into three or four vehicles and drove to Bodega Bay, which is a looong drive. Many folks had very recently received Blackberries, including the drivers, and they spent much of the drive, there and back, sending each other messages of ‘hilarious’ content. On the way back I BEGGED them to let me drive (I didn’t have a device, and wouldn’t have used it while driving, particularly in THAT traffic), but they just laughed at me. I was, then and now, No Fun Nellie. Well, I survived obviously, but I pretty much always drive now.

  50. Sleepy Sleepersson*

    Sometimes my boss insists on driving me to an event if it’s held in his home city and so on his way home. The problem is that he tends to nod off behind the wheel and it’s quite scary. How do I decline his offer?

    1. jcarnall*

      “Thank you so much, but I couldn’t possibly let you – you look so tired. I’ve booked a taxi, it’ll be arriving in a few minutes.”

  51. jcarnall*

    I’m a Brit and have worked in several jobs where there was a culture of going out to lunch to a nice restaurant as a team, and anyone who wanted to being free to order a beer or a glass of wine with their lunch. I also understand how difficult it is to decline these kind of supposedly non-mandatory lunches.

    But we always had either designated drivers who didn’t drink, or got shared taxis there and back. Always, no exceptions.

    To gather a bunch of suggestions together:

    I agree about presenting this as “it’s not you, it’s me”. I’m startled that your boss has escaped the effects of those every-Christmas “don’t drink and drive” ads, but I think it’s perfectly okay to say “It’s just a thing I have – a really strong personal rule that I don’t ever get into a car if the driver’s had a drink. Even though you never drink much and you’re obviously a very safe driver, it still makes me really uncomfortable to be doing this.”

    Get the other admin on side so the two of you can offer to share a taxi back to the office. (Legitimately, if this is going to make going out to lunches unacceptably expensive, this means you can also say, once in a while, “Oh, we can’t go because just now we can’t afford the taxi fare back, sorry – “) And if that’s accepted, book the taxi – have it arrive about the time you know the lunch will be ending, so the waitstaff let you know your taxi’s here. (Get a receipt; it’s possible the boss might end up paying for it, though it would be unwise to ask.)

    But also, I agree with what someone else said: if he asks why you didn’t bring it up before, say because I was really worried you’d take it as criticism – you’re so kind to take us out to these lunches, I really enjoy them, and it’s just that it’s been hanging over me every time that I’m breaking my own personal rule about not getting into a car with someone who’s had even one drink, so could we possibly find some way to resolve this?

    I’m against offering to use public transport, since my educated guess is that this will either get you back from lunch unacceptably late, or mean you have to leave the lunch unacceptably early, and both would leave you open to group criticism in your absence, so that the situation would then be about your lateness/your early departure from lunch, not about your boss drinking/driving.

  52. anon4this*

    I don’t understand this. Is it even professional to drink alcohol (more than one drink) at a business lunch during the day with coworkers? Does the drinking clear the fogginess and make everyone extra productive when they return to work?
    As for the driving, it sounds cramped. Why not on the next outing, bring your own keys and just drive yourself? It sounds like a reasonable expectation, especially if it’s a 5-seat car with 4 occupants. Worst case (like if you don’t own a car) I would just say I get motion sickness riding in cars with other people, and call an Uber.
    Good luck with this.

    1. Bagpuss*

      I think that the issue of whether it is professional depends very much on context and the company’s culture.
      In this case, it is an internal lunch, not one with external clients or business contacts, and we don’t know whether or not any of the attendees will be dealing with clients in the afternoon.

      I think that there are still lots of business situations where the ocassional drink with lunch woiuld not be seen as unprofessional

  53. The Disapproving Brit*

    I’m not sure if this highlights a culture difference between the UK and the US, but all the suggestions to “just offer to drive” seem like they’re completely avoiding the actual problem here. Personally, I wouldn’t say a word to anybody at work about this – I’d simply report his vehicle and the time/location of when he will be driving drunk to the police. They’ll take it from there, and one way or another, the problem will resolve itself.

    1. jcarnall*

      I am British, and I’m against this idea, for the following reasons.

      First of all, because it’s entirely possible that if this drinks-with-lunch is happening in England or Wales, her boss is in fact under the legal driving limit. (In Scotland, thanks to a recent change in the law, her boss decidedly would not be within the legal limit.) It’s possible that boss is carefully monitoring his alcohol intake to stay exactly inside the limits, and knows just what they are. This would make his behaviour anti-social but legal – like taking a phone call on hands-free.

      Secondly, because the police may or may not respond to an anonymous report that a person may be driving while over the limit. Depends on a whole bunch of factors, none of them under LW’s control, and in my view the stress of waiting to hear would be unbearable. Of course LW could attach their name to the report, but if they did, they would also need to immediately start job hunting, since I’d say the chances of this coming out would be pretty high, and I don’t think either the boss or his wife are likely to take kindly to an attempt to have the boss jailed for up to three months and having to pay a fine of up to £2500.

      Thirdly, because in my opinion, directly and gently confronting the boss with the fact that one of his employees feels strongly about this issue – strongly enough to refuse to get into a car with him as driver – is simply the right thing to do, because it gives the boss an opportunity to behave well – to fix their behaviour (driving while drunk / making subordinates go with them in the car while drunk) rather than simply trying to ensure he’s punished for it. (And, see point 1: the LW can’t be sure that the boss is breaking the law, without a breathalyser or urine test, neither of which I presume LW has carried out, unless it’s a really strange office.)

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