We’ve all seen and heard the public service announcements about the dangers of drink driving – especially around this time of year – but why is it so dangerous? After all, there seems to be a very low limit to how much alcohol we can enjoy before being over the limit (which is 0.05 across states for open licence drivers). Many Australians enjoy drinking alcohol in their pastime, and many would claim to know when they are over the limit (or feel perfectly fine after having a few drinks); however, alcohol tends to affect different people in different ways. The Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) gives a general guide for alcohol consumption, to help men and women stay within the limit. This is, however, a rule of thumb and does not account for differences in size, weight, and water and food consumption. Not only this, but drinks made at venues are rarely served according to units of alcohol; therefore, one drink may not equal one standard drink.
The ADF says:
- Men of average size can drink two drinks within the first hour, and one drink per hour after that.
- Women of average size can drink one drink per hour.
Staying within the limit is extremely important, not just for safety reasons, but to avoid losing your licence and a large fine. Each state within Australia conducts random breath testing (RBT) as a precautionary measure to reduce the risk of drink driving accidents. If you’re caught over the limit during one of these tests, you could lose your licence.
Unfortunately, alcohol remains a primary contributor to road crash fatalities in Australia, and is the number one contributor in 30% of road fatalities in Australia, according to the National Road Safety Partnership Program (NRSPP). This is extremely concerning as the blood alcohol limit has been enforced for over 25 years now. So, why is this limit important?
Data has found that the rate of casualty crashes doubles with an alcohol level in excess of 0.05 BAC, and the risk of being involved in a fatal crash increases sharply. This is due to the influence of alcohol on the body – as we divulge later!
The Likelihood of an Accident Per Increase of BAC
- BAC of 0.05… 2x (doubles) risk of having an accident.
- BAC of 0.08… 7x more likely be in an accident
- BAC of 0.15… 25x more likely be in an accident
A (not so) fun fact: Even two hours after you’ve stopped drinking, your BAC will continue to rise. So, give yourself time before judging whether you’re over the limit.
While the limit enforces a good reason to avoid getting behind the wheel, many people still do. Around 16% of drivers go to drive knowing they may be over the legal limit, and 20% of drivers drive the morning after drinking while over the limit. Many people assume that they are fine to drink the following morning, but this isn’t always the case. If you’ve been drinking in excess, there’s a good chance your body hasn’t metabolised all of the alcohol (the average person can process one standard drink per hour).
If you’re ever unsure of your blood alcohol limit, there are gadgets that exist to keep you accountable. There are personal digital breathalysers for purchase that can give you a reading before heading onto the road. That way, you can know for certain that you will be safe to drive, protecting other drivers, passengers, and yourself from the repercussions of drunk driving.
Do you know what to do if you’ve witnessed an accident or a hit and run? Check out our recent articles for more information on what to do in these events and follow Novus’ blog for more road-related news.
How Does Alcohol Influence Your Ability to Drive Safely?
Alcohol affects the body in the following ways while driving:
- Impairs coordination and concentration
- Slows down reaction time and reflexes
- Reduces ability judge speed and distance
- Reduces ability to multitask
- Reduces attention span
- Affects vision and impairs the perception of obstacles and hearing
- False sense confidence and an increased tendency to take risks, potentially leading to risk-taking behaviour.
- Relaxes you and therefore increases your chance of falling asleep at the wheel
- Makes simple tasks more difficult (turning, for example).
Even at the 0.05 limit, alcohol in the system affects the brain’s ability to make rational decisions and increases the likelihood of risk-taking behaviours. Alcohol is a potent depressant, meaning that it slows down the body and central nervous system, which affects physical and mental functioning. Excessive drinking can cause cognitive impairment, affecting judgement, memory and reaction time. Most people know the feeling of making a regretful decision while under the influence of alcohol – driving is undoubtedly the biggest one could make. It puts yourself and others in direct danger. There are always other options if you think you might be over the limit. Make the best decision for yourself.
What Are The Ramifications of Getting Caught Over The Limit?
In Australia, it is against the law to drive when your BAC is over the 0.05 limit – however, it should be noted that this limit is just for open drivers. You need to be aware of the limit per your licence classification. For learners, provisional drivers, restricted holders, bus, truck, and taxi drivers, the limit is a strict 0. This is the law.
If you are caught breaking the law, there will be some serious legal ramifications. You may be dealt with a harsh fine, lose your licence, or you may face prison time. Fines of up to $3,736 are given to first time offenders, with larger consequences for repeat offenders. Offenders may also lose their licence for 3–12 months, or could face up to 3–9 months in prison. (These figures vary from state to state).
Then there’s the physical ramifications. Drink driving-related accidents can cause serious damage to your vehicle that can be expensive to fix. Some repairs are more urgent than others and you should not hold off on – you need an intact windscreen to legally drive on the road in Australia. If your windscreen has suffered damage as a result of an accident, get it repaired or replaced straight away with Novus Autoglass. Novus provides a lifetime guarantee with your service so you know it will hold up over time.
Unfortunately, contrary to popular belief, there is no magic cure to sober you up – no amount of coffee, cold showers, eating, or sleeping will reduce your BAC. The only remedy is time. Time allows your body to process alcohol, reducing your BAC down to 0.
What If Your Friend Wants To Drink & Drive?
Whilst the onus is generally on you to take responsibility for your own actions, it’s important to look out for your mates too – it may just save their life! Thinking ahead and taking early, preemptive, or preventive action before heading out (e.g. planning how you’ll travel home safely) is the best strategy to avoid having friends drink drive and to avoid potentially unnecessary conflict.Here are some potential options you can organise:
- Stay at a friend’s place
- Organise a lift
- Use public transport
- Get a taxi or ride-share service
- Choose someone to be a designated driver for the group
While walking home may seem like a great option, this can also lead to certain dangers. Drink-walking might expose you to dangerous situations, whether from strangers you may encounter or from taking a dangerous path. If you must walk, it is recommended that you walk with a sober friend or in a group, on the footpath and only crossing at marked crossings or under street lights.
If you’re struggling to communicate with a friend that is intoxicated about drink driving, be assertive and firm, though still polite as not to aggravate the situation. Always remain calm and non-confrontational in communicating why it’s not best for them to drive. State that it’s because you ultimately care for them and their (and other’s) safety. You can also:
- Refuse to get in a car with them to show you’re serious
- Suggest and help arrange alternative transport
- Get support from others to help convince the person not to drive
- As a last resort, you can try taking away your friend’s car keys.
Remember, there’s no such thing as driving safely if you’ve been drinking. Though if you’ve been drinking, there are things you can do to ensure you and everyone around you remains safe and you don’t face any harsh penalties. That includes organising alternative methods home.
Novus Autoglass is a global brand in glass repair. Novus repairs and replaces broken and cracked windscreens efficiently using the latest technology to get you back on the road faster. Book in your service online or call 13 22 34 today to hear more about our services.