There is a meme doing the rounds on social media as we approach the festive period and it is meant to be an apology and it reads “Dear Liver, this month will a rough one. Stay strong”. This means that the liver should be primed as a lot of alcohol will consumed during this festive season.
The festive season has a lot of end of year parties with alcohol being served, so it is only fitting that information is shared on the effects of alcohol in relation of to the operation of equipment namely vehicles. Drinking and driving can lead to potentially harmful situations and should be avoided at all costs. The largest at risk group for drunk driving are the binge drinkers. This means consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time. Kindly note Dear Liver, stay strong.
Safe driving involves the ability to concentrate, make good judgments and quick reaction to situations. Unfortunately, alcohol negatively affects all these skills. Alcohol impairs your driving skills in the following ways;
- Slow reaction time – drinking slows your response time and increases the likelihood of an accident. In the instance that the car in front brakes suddenly it will take more time for your brain to process the information and initiate an appropriate response.
- Lack of coordination – alcohol affects motor skills like eye, hand and foot coordination. All drivers know that to drive a car you need these crucial skills. With the impairment of these skills it is difficult to avoid an impending dangerous situation. We have all seen the signs of poor coordination and these include trouble walking, staggering, swaying and being unable to stand straight. We have also heard stories of being unable to get into the car and find the ignition, this may not be applicable to the push to start.
- Reduced concentration – the attention span is reduced
- Impaired vision – vision may become blurry or eye movement is nor controlled. This means perception of distance between your car and other cars is affected.
- Inhibition of judgment – while driving under the influence one starts taking more risks and not alert and aware of the surrounding conditions.
The first myth to be debunked is that alcohol is not a stimulant but a depressant. Members of the public cried foul and some called it the highest form of betrayal when the leading brewer of clear beer donated breathalysers to the Traffic Police. This is more than a welcome move as it is aimed at protecting the general public from the menace of drunk driving.
The Breathalyzer test will estimate the Blood Alcohol Concentration/content (BAC) by measuring the amount of alcohol in the air that you breathe out. This is the tool which the Road Traffic and Safety Agency and Traffic Police will deploy during the festive period.
In Zambia and the rest of the world, an individual with a BAC level of 0.08% is considered to be legally impaired. The table below shows the effects of BAC on driving.
A standard drink is equal to 14.0 grams of pure alcohol and a unit of alcohol is 10ml or 8.0 grams of pure alcohol. This is found in;
- Single shot of spirit (40%) – 1.0 unit
- Bottle of lager/cider/beer (5%) – 1.7 units
- Can of beer/lager/cider – 2.0 units
- Standard glass of red/white/rose’ wine (12%) – 2-3 units
Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention : Impaired driving, get the facts Nov 2016
For all the partying going during this period, one could take the following precautionary measures;
- When in a group designate a non-drinking driver
- Don’t let your friends drive impaired
- If you have been drinking gat a ride home or a taxi
- If you are hosting a party remind your guests to designate a driver
Enjoy the festive season and let’s meet in 2018.
- Department of Transportation (US), National Highway Safety Administration. Traffic Safety facts 2014 data: alcohol impaired driving
- Jewet A, et al, Alcohol impaired driving among adults – United States, 2012, MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2015;64(30)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention : Impaired driving, get the facts Nov 2016