“Did you hear about this really drunk guy who was admitted to the casualty section of the hospital? The doctor on-duty was only going to tell him in the morning when he would be sober and would understand, but he had actually wiped out his entire family in a car accident.”
We can’t begin to imagine the pain and sorrow that drunken driving has cost families in South Africa. Drinking alcohol while driving is still one of the main reasons for road accidents. It seems that the current laws in place are not a deterrent towards such driver behaviour. About 1980 motorists were arrested over the 2016 Easter weekend, just for drunken driving.1
SOUTH AFRICA HAS THE HIGHEST ALCOHOL-RELATED ROAD DEATHS IN THE WORLD
According to the World Health Organisation, South Africa has the highest rate of road deaths due to alcohol, where nearly two thirds of all road deaths can be blamed on alcohol consumption.2 The sad fact is that although South Africa has national laws to address drunken driving, it only scores 40% in its ability to enforce those laws.
WHAT IS THE LIMIT OF ALCOHOL IN BLOOD FOR DRIVERS?
Many drivers may not realize that even small quantities of alcohol can affect their ability to drive. The alertness required to be able to react in split seconds in a dangerous situation is diminished by the effects of alcohol on the brain. The blood/alcohol limit in South Africa for drivers is 0.05 g /100 mL of blood. Thus, what motorists will want to know is how can they stay under this limit?3
HOW MUCH CAN YOU DRINK AND STILL STAY UNDER THE LIMIT?
When you want to work out how much you can drink before exceeding your limit, then you need to take into consideration your weight, your gender, your metabolic rate, and age. Concerning the last point, it is interesting to note that younger people tend to metabolize alcohol more slowly. Extra information is available regarding the alcohol units you would consume with different drinks.4
WHAT ARE SOME INCORRECT PERCEPTIONS?
It can be dangerous to assume that you know your own drinking limit. You are also on shaky ground when you have faith in drinking various concoctions after the party, which supposedly can drastically reduce the alcohol content in the blood. The problem about setting your own limit is that it usually does not agree with the law’s limit. Furthermore, your body may well disagree with what you consider to be your limit.
WHAT IS THE ALCOHOL LIMIT?
A driver has exceeded the legal limit if the breath alcohol content is more than 0.24 mg/L, or if the blood alcohol level exceeds 0.05 g/100 mL.1
A rough guideline that South African motorists seems to follow is that a maximum of only one unit of alcohol per hour may be consumed. On average, the human body’s metabolism can only deal with one unit of alcohol per hour. 5 Contrary to popular belief, drinking copious quantities of water, or strong black coffee, or having a cold shower do not sober up an individual.
EXAMPLES OF DIFFERENT DRINKS AND THEIR CORRESPONDING UNITS OF ALCOHOL
The drinks that come to one unit of alcohol is a 75-mL glass or wine, and a 25-mL tot of whisky and brandy.4 A beer or a spirit cooler adds up to about 1.25 units. You have to really be careful with cocktails and shooters, where one glass can easily add up to between 2 and 4 units.
SOME TIPS IF DRINKS ARE “UNAVOIDABLE”
The best tip is not to drink at all before driving i.e. the alcohol unit must be zero. Nevertheless, if drinking is “unavoidable,” then there are some tips to consider:4
- Eat some snacks first before drinking on an empty stomach
- Consume 1 unit of alcohol over one hour, drinking slowly
- It is important to keep track of how many drinks you have had
- Try have a designated driver or even use a taxi service instead.
WHAT COULD HAPPEN IF YOU DO DRINK AND DRIVE?
Many motorists do not fully appreciate the serious consequences of drinking and driving. Here are some of them:
- You could accidently kill yourself or have it on your own conscience that you killed someone else. Imagine a drunk father, as the sole survivor, wiping out his entire family in an accident? The other issue is that your driving could be responsible for inflicting life-changing injuries to other passengers, and drivers, never mind also to yourself.
- You could get arrested, and go to jail.
- You could get a criminal record, which affects your career.
- What about the legal costs involved with several court cases, and so on?
We all know the answer to the obvious question of “was it really worth it?”
This article was prepared by Eric Sandmann in his personal capacity. The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views and opinions of Prime Meridian Direct (Pty) Ltd, FSP41040.The views and opinions in the article should not be attributed to anyone but the author unless expressly stated. Nothing in this article should be relied upon as advice, this publication is presented for informational purposes only. No person should act or refrain from acting in reliance on any information found in this article, without first obtaining proper financial advice from the appropriate professional. The author makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, or completeness, of any information linked from, referred to, or contained in this article. The author reserves the right, to edit and change the content of this article.