Alcohol and Drink Driving

Alcohol is the most commonly abused drug, but people often don’t see it as being a drug as it can legally be bought in shops and bars. Being under the influence of alcohol can cause many problems and be dangerous for yourself and others around you.

Drunk-driving is a major catastrophe that claims thousands of lives every year. Despite the chilling statistics of drunk-driving, it's unfortunate that drinkers, especially those within the 18-30-year age bracket will still consume alcohol and get behind the wheel of a car. Driving under the influence, intoxicated or impaired - is a traffic offence in any country, and not just alcohol, but also any other forms of drug.


Drink-Driving and the Legal Alcohol Limit

As you would expect, a high number of road accidents in the UK are a direct or indirect cause of drink-driving. Statistics indicate that the government spends at least £300 million per year on health services for car crashes linked directly with drink driving. In many countries, management of drink-driving is done by employing sobriety checkpoints, where the level of intoxication is measured through the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) or a breathalyser test.

In the case of someone being found guilty of drink driving, they may receive a large fine, have their driver’s license suspended or revoked, and for repeat offenders and serious incidents, jail time may be handed out. In the UK, the legal limit for drinking and driving is 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood, 35 mg of alcohol per 100 ml or breath or 107 mg of alcohol in 100 mg of urine. 

It’s a common misconception that it’s easy to determine or convert your alcohol intake into units/ how many drinks you can have before you can drive. That isn’t the case as the level of Blood Alcohol Content depends on a variety of factors including body mass, gender and the way your body absorbs alcohol.


Limit Sets for Drunk-Driving in Different Countries

Each country has its unique traffic laws, and the legal limits for drunk-driving vary considerably between countries.

Let’s have a look at a breakdown of the legal limits set for different countries:

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Effects of Alcohol and Driving

Alcohol is a depressant, and it weakens the cognitive functions, therefore making tasks that require diligence and control harder. When driving, you require discipline and optimal concentration. You use your eyes, ears, hand, and feet when you get behind the wheel - all of which are controlled by the brain.

Let’s look at how alcohol affects the cognitive functions;

  • Reaction time - Alcohol significantly slows your reaction time to changing situations. Being a depressant, it hinders your ability to act fast in the face of danger. Also, alcohol makes your brain take longer to assess a situation as well as slowing down your reflexes, which might result in an accident.

  • Vision - Drinking alcohol can affect your eyesight by blurring your vision meaning you're unable to judge your car’s position, see the centre line, keep your car in the correct lane, locate other vehicles or even notice a traffic light. When all of the above factors are combined, you can end up with a recipe for disaster.

  • Inhibits Judgement - Proper judgment is a crucial skill for every driver. When driving, your brain makes logical decisions on your behalf. For instance, when another driver cuts in front of you, your brain makes a logical decision, including alerting you and making you aware of all the possible outcomes and reacting, by usually slamming on the brakes, when your judgment and reaction times are impaired by alcohol, this judgment is impeded.

  • Concentration - Regardless of your intake, alcohol is going to make you drowsy at the very least. Drowsiness obscures you from the fine details such as speed limit, correct lane, traffic signs, and others. With alcohol in your system, the risks of getting into an accident are much higher.

  • Coordination - As mentioned earlier, driving entails a combination of all the sensory organs. Alcohol in your system is going to affect motor skills between your eyes, legs, and hands. These are the primary coordination skills you need for successful navigation, and without them, you put yourself and others at risk.


Alcohol and Driving Dangers

In the UK alone, alcohol-related crashes claim nearly 3,000 lives every year, and nearly 1 in 6 of all deaths on the UK’s roads involve drivers who are over the legal limit.


Increased chance of Road Crash

As we have mentioned, drinking alcohol impairs judgment, contributes to poor visibility and affects your concentration, all which may increase the chance of getting into an accident.

An individual with a blood alcohol content of 0.01 is seven times more likely to be involved in a road accident compared to someone who hasn’t consumed alcohol. 


Legal Repercussions

Failing on a breathalyser test may earn you a night in jail, a £2500 fine, a 12 month driving ban or in serious cases, jail time. Death by careless driving when under the influence of alcohol carries a jail sentence of 14 years. Once you have been caught drink driving, regardless of your penalty – this will stay on your criminal record making it very hard for you to get a job, or travel the world. 


How to Prevent Drunk-Driving

Drunk driving is a social vice that not only puts you and others at risk of serious injury or death but has far-reaching economic implications. 

Here are some of the steps you can follow to avoid getting into trouble;

  • If you are going for a night out, always make sure there is a designated driver who is happy to abstain from alcohol for the night

  • Keep a taxi number handy or use public transport when intoxicated

  • If you are driving, stick to soft drinks, mocktails or zero alcohol beers

Remember that there is no safe way to calculate the amount of alcohol within your blood without a breathalyser, and it's therefore, advisable that you follow the above rules to avoid any of the serious consequences that come with drink driving.

Danielle Robinson