What is the problem?
As Christmas approaches many of us may be presented with the opportunity to consume a little more alcohol than we ordinarily would. A mulled wine at a Christmas fair, a few pints after work on a Friday, a couple of glasses of wine during a Christmas meal, a glass of port following it, or, even a round of shots with colleagues at the end of a long night of Christmas partying. The opportunities to overindulge are apparent.
December also brings with it colder temperatures, darker evenings, and more treacherous commuting conditions particularly when walking or using public transport. People’s reliance upon their vehicles for transport unsurprisingly may increase at this time.
Therefore, with an increased temptation to overindulge, and an added reliance on our motor vehicles as our primary method of transport, there is a need to remind ourselves of the rules that exist surrounding the consumption of alcohol and driving.
What is the legal limit?
Presently the legal breath alcohol limit is 35mg of alcohol per 100ml of breath or 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood.
The limit is not zero, so as long as I’m careful I should be ok?
Drinking and driving in any capacity is never a good idea. Alcohol slows our reaction times and when driving we need to be able to respond swiftly to hazards that may arise. Often, split second decisions have a bearing on whether an accident occurs or is avoided. Therefore, anything that could adversely impact on our reaction times is best avoided.
I can have one though, can’t I?
Alcohol effects different people in different ways. A person’s age, weight, sex and metabolism will all have an impact on how alcohol is processed. What someone has eaten and when they have eaten it, will also impact upon how much of an effect alcohol has on them. The type and strength of any alcoholic drink will also be a significant factor in the impact it has. For these reasons it is not possible to accurately predict how much alcohol a person can consume and stay within the drink drive limit.
What about food or chocolate that has alcohol in it, could that place me over the limit?
Alcohol consumed in food instead of drinks can still contribute to us being over the legal limit.
The risks of being over the limit from alcohol consumed solely from within food will normally be less. This is because some of the alcohol may have been removed during the cooking process or the amount of alcohol present in the product may be very small and would have to be consumed in very large quantities that would be unrealistic for a person to consume in a single sitting.
Notwithstanding the risk being less, it is still important to be mindful of what we are consuming. For example, a sherry trifle that has more sherry than anything else in its ingredient list is likely to have a real impact on someone’s alcohol reading. Therefore, it is important to remember that consuming alcohol alongside or within food does not negate its impact entirely.
I was drinking last night but I have slept since. Am I ok to drive now?
Sleeping does not guarantee that someone will be fit to drive when they wake up following a night of drinking. The body takes time to process alcohol and the more alcohol that has been consumed by a person, the longer it will take for it to be processed.
If someone has had a heavy nights drinking then there will be every chance that they will still be over the legal limit the following day. Therefore, it is important to make travel plans not just for the night of any Christmas party but also the following day, if they need to drive in order to get to work.
What could happen if someone did drive whilst above the limit?
They would be placing themselves and others at risk. If caught, and upon conviction in the Magistrates’ Court, a person could receive a fine and/or prison sentence of up to 6 months depending upon the level of a person’s breath or blood reading.
Drink driving carries a mandatory disqualification for at least 12 months. Disqualification can be imposed for periods much longer than this with the precise period to be determined by the Court taking into consideration the specific facts of any case.
If someone has an accident whilst over the limit and causes serious injury or death, then the penalties are far greater.
So it is best to avoid alcohol and driving altogether?
Absolutely. With appropriate forward planning people can still enjoy the festivities and ensure they remain the right side of the limit at all times.