Why you might be a drunk driver and not know it!

Here at the Baldock Beer Festival we do not encourage anyone to drive to the festival so leave the car at home and have a beer!

To reinforce this message guest blogger Guest Blogger Debbie Bannigan from Swansell explains why you should leave that car at home.

Picture this. You are driving your usual route to work one morning. Everything is going just fine  when the car in front of you brakes suddenly and you hit their rear bumper. You know it’s your fault – you should have kept a safe braking distance – so you are relieved that the other driver is polite and understanding about it. After all, it can happen to anyone, can’t it?

As you exchange your insurance details and work out how to clear the road to let traffic pass, a police car pulls up. The officer requests a routine breath test and you are both happy to oblige. You would never drink and drive and it’s not even 9am.

The other driver’s test blows clear. Then it’s your turn. You blow. The intoximeter makes a beeping sound and the police officer’s expression changes as he informs you that your test indicates you are over the drink-drive limit. You are arrested on suspicion of driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit or unfit through drink.
Less than an hour later you’re at the police station being charged with the offence. How could this happen? You are not a closet alcoholic who downs a pint of vodka for breakfast. And you would never drink and drive. Your licence and your reputation are far too precious, plus you know the risks. But you did have a few drinks late last night. And you simply didn’t realise that it was enough to leave you over the limit the next morning. Which is probably why you misjudged your braking distance. And why you now face a drink-drive conviction with all the associated stigma, shame and inconvenience, not to mention losing your licence.
Image 1 - police stop (1)
In Swanswell’s experience, these are people who just didn’t know they could still be unfit to drive several hours, and a decent sleep, after their last drink. Whether they are a professional driver, a business person, a parent on the school run or a sales rep dashing to the first appointment of the morning, they are often shocked and confused by the result
of their breath test, and totally unprepared for the charges and criminal record that follow.
If you sometimes have several drinks late into the evening, then drive your car in the morning, you are risking a drink-drive limit shock.
Alcohol impairs driving, so the consequences for you, your loved ones or complete strangers could be serious, or even fatal. It may not be just your licence that you lose.
What can you do to avoid a drink-drive limit shock?
Not drinking any alcohol at all would provide certainty, but I accept that people want a drink from time to time.
Here’s the moment for me to be clear that drinking and driving don’t mix. From our experience, the only safe amount of alcohol when you are getting behind the wheel is none. If you want my advice – professional and personal – don’t drink and drive. Ever.
If you enjoy a drink but want to be safe to drive the next day, here are the three options available to you:

Option 1 – learn the science of alcohol elimination rates

You can learn all about how your body processes alcohol and the rate at which it is eliminated from your system. This is a complex and imprecise science and you can find out all about it here.

Option 2 – the rule-of-thumb approach

As a rule of thumb, allow one hour to pass for every unit of alcohol you have consumed. So a two unit glass of wine before 10pm will be clear of your system by midnight. However, this is not precise, it requires some maths (and the bit of your brain that does maths tends to check out first when you drink alcohol). Plus you have to understand those pesky units which, as far as I can tell, very few people do. You can find a simple calculator here.
However, if you’ve read the science in option 1 you’ll know that different people process alcohol at different rates for all sorts of reasons. So allow yourself a good margin for error before deciding to get behind the wheel. We recommend adding another two hours for safety.

Option 3 – take a test

Simple home-use breathalysers are readily available. As one of my team members (who delivers courses to people convicted of drink driving) pointed out to me, these are not as reliable as the intoximeters used by the police. She would much rather you take option 1 above to learn and apply the science of alcohol elimination rates. While I don’t disagree with her, I also realise that understanding and applying the science isn’t for everyone. So, if you want a quick way of checking whether you are likely to be affected by last night’s alcohol, keep a home breathalyser handy.
The only safe amount of alcohol in your system is none. And, as home breathalysers are a guide only, don’t choose to drive if you think you’re still affected by last night’s alcohol, even if the breath test is clear.
Would a home breathalyser be a good choice for you? You can find information about easily available home breathalysers, and even buy one at Swanswell’s online shop. You might be shocked by your results, but it’s better to be shocked in the comfort of your own living room than by the side of a road with a police officer.
The bottom line is that alcohol and motoring don’t mix. Don’t Drink and Drive. Ever.
And whichever option you take, please avoid the Drink-Drive Limit Shock.
Got a friend who enjoys an evening drink and drives the next day? Share this page so they know how to avoid the Drink-Drive Limit Shock too.
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Debbie Bannigan