It’s all fun and games…until it’s not.
Though it might not seem like it at the time, drink driving is a dangerous practice. No matter how strong you think you are, alcohol still affects your reaction time and judgement. With enough in your bloodstream, you truly can’t handle a car or other types of heavy machinery safely.
The law puts certain limits in place to help people understand how much alcohol is too much. Go over the limit and you’ll face stiff penalties.
Thus, it’s important to know what these limits are and what it takes to reach them. Let’s explore.
Blood Alcohol Concentration Limits in Australia
The physical concentration of alcohol in your blood is what police and courts use to determine if you are too impaired to drive safely. The law has determined a maximum limit of 0.05%. This is equal to 0.05 grams of alcohol per every 100 ml of blood in your body.
Law enforcement uses a breathalyzer device to measure this at random checkpoints. They may also use it when they suspect someone is drunk driving.
Most people can get away with the 0.05% limit, but there are stricter limits that apply to certain people. You are required to know which limits apply to you. Don’t try to use ignorance as your defence in court for drunk driving. According to the expert lawyers at Riviere Law, it won’t fly.
Taxi and bus drivers, big-rig drivers of vehicles over 13.9 tonnes, and drivers hauling dangerous materials are subject to a 0.02% limit. Depending on the factors we’ll discuss in a minute, one drink can put you over this limit.
Learner drivers and provisional or probationary drivers are subject to a limit of zero. Certain workplaces also enforce a limit of zero on their employees. Again, it’s your responsibility to know which limit applies to you.
How Many Drinks to Hit Your Limit?
There is an oft-cited measure that some people like to use. Count your drinks! You can have two in the first hour and one for every hour afterwards and stay under the 0.05% limit.
Unfortunately, this measure is crude and can be wildly inaccurate with devastating consequences. Let’s understand why.
The BAC of an individual does not rise at the same rate as that of another person. In fact, your own BAC may rise faster one day than another depending on your physical and mental health. Here is a quick rundown of some of the variables.
- Gender: Women have a higher ratio of fat to lean muscle mass, which makes their BAC rise faster than men’s
- Body size: Larger people have more blood which means it takes more alcohol to create the same concentration
- Tolerance: The body of a person who drinks regularly can handle more alcohol than an occasional drinker
- Food: Food in the stomach will slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream, thus slowing the rise of BAC
- Liver health: A healthy liver will remove alcohol from the bloodstream faster than an unhealthy one
This isn’t even a complete list, but you get the idea of how variable BAC can be.
In addition, how do you know what to count as one drink? The amount of alcohol that you get from one drink varies greatly.
Glasses come in different sizes. Wine glasses alone range from 100 ml to more than 280 ml.
Next, the concentration of alcohol in the drink varies considerably. A standard 350 ml beer contains about 5% of alcohol, while 44 ml of vodka might have about 40%. It also depends on how much alcohol the bartender added to your drink. Some bartenders are heavier-handed than others.
On top of that, you know how it goes at a party. You get a drink, then set it down somewhere and it gets lost. Do you count that drink toward your limit since you only had a couple of sips?
Plus, do you really want to be watching the clock to see when you can have your next drink? The whole point of going to a party is to relax and have fun. Stressing about not drinking too much is kind of the opposite.
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“Safe” Drinking and Driving
With these factors in mind, the only real level of safe drinking and driving is not to drink at all before driving. Or if you want to drink, let someone else drive. The risk to you and others around you just isn’t worth it.
Call a cab or have a friend drive you home. The life you save could be your own.