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Not worth the risk

Posted: 8am 18 Dec 2020

The festive season is in full swing and it can be tempting to celebrate the end of a challenging year over a few drinks. If you think you know everything about drinking and driving, you’re probably wrong.

Drink driving is one of the major killers on Queensland roads and sadly police typically see a spike at this time of year.

On average, 55 people are killed and 550 seriously injured each year in Queensland as a result of drink driving. Drinking alcohol reduces our ability to drive safely, affecting judgement, vision, co-ordination and reflexes, and increasing the risk of crashing.

The facts

  • In Queensland, Learner, Provisional and Probationary Licence holders are not permitted to drive after drinking any alcohol. They must have a zero blood/breath alcohol concentration (BAC) limit.
  • Open licence holders must have a BAC lower than 0.05. The same applies for supervisors of car and motorcycle Learner drivers.
  • The following licence holders must also maintain a zero BAC when driving:
    • any vehicle weighing over 4.5tonnes or an articulated motor vehicle (eg B-double or road train)
    • a bus built to carry more than 12 adults, including the driver
    • a vehicle carrying dangerous goods
    • a taxi, limousine or public passenger vehicle
  • Drinking alcohol:
    • slows down reaction times (crucial in an emergency)
    • makes it difficult to multi-task (essential for safe driving)
    • causes poor judgement (affecting ability to judge distance and speed)
    • reduces attention span
    • affects vision and hearing (reducing ability to identify driving hazards)
    • creates over-confidence (might take unnecessary risks)

Why no alcohol is safer when driving

Blood/breath alcohol concentration (BAC) is a measure of the amount of alcohol in the body. Even at 0.05, studies show reactions are slower than at 0.0 BAC.

It’s difficult to accurately monitor how much alcohol we consume due to:

  • the different size and shape of glasses
  • different alcohol content in each type of drink (wine/beer/spirits)
  • different volumes typically poured for each type of drink
  • gradual alcohol impairment (the more we drink, the less accurate your guesses become about the amount of alcohol consumed).

It’s also important to remember that BAC may continue to rise after you stop drinking. It’s why you shouldn’t rely on the result from a breath-testing machine in a hotel.

Other variables that affect BAC include weight, gender, metabolism, how often you drink, and how long since you have eaten. Coffee, sleep, vomiting or exercise will not reduce your BAC.

The only thing that reduces your BAC is time.

Plan ahead and stay safe

If you’re going to drink, make arrangements to get home safely and avoid driving the morning after. Consider these options:

  • Stay at a friend’s place rather than drive
  • Leave the car at home and consider alternative transport such as a taxi, ride share, courtesy bus, pre-arranged lift or public transport
  • Designate a ‘dry driver’ if going out with others
  • If hosting at your house, provide non-alcoholic drink options and plenty of food, offer guests somewhere to stay overnight rather than drive home, or call a taxi or ride share for them. Remember they may still be over the limit the next morning.
  • If you’re walking after drinking, walk with a sober friend or group, stay on the footpath, and only cross the road at marked crossings or under a streetlight where you’re clearly visible to motorists.

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