How much is too much?

A judge whom I interviewed during an alcohol awareness week said he’d never driven drunk but he had driven tired which could have been just as dangerous.

I have several vices but excess alcohol isn’t one of them which means I’m often the designated driver.

When that’s the case I never have more than one glass of wine if I’m not eating and no more than a couple over several hours with a meal.

That should mean I’m well below the legal limit for driving,  but does that make me fit to drive?

As Macdoctor points out, not necessarily.

I wouldn’t be taking any other drug, but I have driven when I’m tired which, as the judge I interviewed said, may be just as bad.

So how do we know how much is too much?

The answer to that depends on several variables, so what should we do to make the roads safer?

Macdoctor suggests:

 Let us scrap the legal limit for alcohol altogether. Instead, we should substitute a legal requirement to be “fit to drive”. Should you be stopped at a police checkpoint and the cop has any reason to believe you may be impaired in your ability to drive (including checking your breath alcohol), he can insist that you take a “fit to drive” test. Failure (to take or pass the test) will get you arrested. The test could be administered using driving simulators in the back of a police van (basic tests administered by cops – such as walking a straight line – are simply too imprecise).

The advantage of a “fit to drive” test is that it catches all the impaired drivers, not just the ones impaired by excessive alcohol. It also avoids the problem of the margin where the person with the BAC of 0.052% is carted off to jail, despite being only mildly impaired, and the person with the BAC of 0.048% is let go, despite being high on cannabis and a liability on the road. It also standardises the drug tests that the new drug driving laws propose – making them considerably more objective. It will also prevent people from using portable breathalysers so that they can drink “to the limit” regardless of how capable they are of driving.

There’s an old joke about Aunt Mabel driving better when she was drunk than Uncle George did when he was sober.

If the fit to drive test was introduced it might prove to be true.

2 Responses to How much is too much?

  1. JC says:

    As the statistics here show:

    Click to access alcohol_drugs_2009.pdf

    Alcohol is involved in about 30% of fatalities, but its strictly age related. So I read that table as you are vastly more likely to die on the roads.. sober, and if you drink and drive, you are vastly *less* likely to die if you are over 30!

    The lesson is, never underestimate the capacity of an old boozer to select his statistics 🙂

    On a more serious note the stats seem to indicate that broad brush approaches of “punishing” the vast majority of drinking drivers with more strict limits will run up against the natural law of diminishing returns.

    Something like 70%+ of the driving population is over 30 and it knows road fatalities have a critical mass around the young, male, unlicenced/restricted drink/driving, Maori and alcoholic drivers.. yet its that older and more sensible majority that will bear the brunt of tighter booze laws for relatively small gains in road safety.

    You want to make a difference in the stats?.. make getting a drivers licence at secondary school mandatory. I once took a group of 25 young Maori to Aussie to do a big contract, they were aged 18-28 and only one held a drivers license.. but they all drove.



  2. Hollyfield says:

    This is something I’ve often wondered about. If I drink about 1/2 a glass of wine I feel dizzy and light-headed, and am unsteady on my feet. I presume that this small quantity of wine would have me under the legal limit if I were tested, but I definitely do not feel fit to drive. Most of my friends will drink a couple of glasses over the same time period and appear fine. Which makes me wonder just how useful a specific limit actually is.
    (This is not a conflict between alcohol and medication by the way, this it just how I react to alcohol!)


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