Am I right to drive? Understanding how drinking affects your BAC ‘the morning after’

5/10/2017

Road safety campaigns and police enforcement have dramatically reduced drink driving since the first ‘booze bus’ hit Australian roads and the first drink driving campaign hit our screens in the 1980s.

However, drink drivers still make up a large percentage of the statistics. Drink driving is the number one contributing factor in almost a third of fatal crashes in Australia and more than a quarter of drivers and riders killed on Australian roads have a BAC exceeding the legal limit.

At just 0.02 your odds of being involved in a fatal crash have already doubled, compared to not drinking alcohol at all, and at 0.08 BAC you’re 13 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash.

While it’s different for everybody and is influenced by things like gender, body size, level of fitness, liver state and what you’ve eaten, a rough rule of thumb for a fully licensed driver to remain under the BAC limit is:

• males can have 2 standard drinks in the first hour and 1 standard drink every hour after that; females can have no more than 1 standard drink every hour
• allow at least one hour for your body to process each standard drink. So, for example, if you’ve had five full strength pots of beers or four glasses of wine, you’d need to wait at least six hours before thinking about getting behind the wheel. The legal BAC limit for a Learner or P driver is zero, which means no alcohol at all when driving.

Re:act

Many of us enjoy a night out with a few drinks and good company. While most are well aware of the risks associated with drinking and driving, the dangers of driving the morning after having a few drinks is less understood.

Heavy drinking or drinking late into the night can easily leave you with blood alcohol levels that are too high to drive legally or safely the next morning. Keeping track of how much you drink and allowing enough time to recover are vital if you need to drive the morning after drinking the previous night.

During this week’s UN Global Road Safety Week (May 8–14), the 2017 Re:act campaign is highlighting ‘the morning after’ message. Re:act is an innovative behavioural change project designed to influence the choices 18–25 year olds make by increasing awareness of the dangers they may face on the roads.

Melbourne creative agency Hard Edge started the initiative in 2016 in collaboration with Swinburne University and with support from several organisations with a passion for improving road safety, including the Transport Accident Commission, RACV, Transurban and ARRB Group, which coordinates the National Road Safety Partnership Program.

Each year Swinburne design students are challenged to create a campaign aimed at changing behaviour around road safety and social issues relevant to 18–25 year olds. The 2017 campaign asks young drivers to consider if they should be getting behind the wheel the morning after drinking heavily or late into the night.

In 2016, the brief was to reduce mobile phone use while driving.

Entries in the 2017 campaign will be judged on May 25, with the winning entry to be developed and rolled out on the Swinburne campus.

For more on Re:act visit www.react.com.au and for information on staying safe and standard drinks, download www.nrspp.org.au/Pool/Resources/drink-driving-fs(1)(1).pdf 

HOW LONG SHOULD I WAIT?

Dinner and wine
Saturday night dinner and drinks at a friend’s house. You start with a glass of wine at 7.30pm and by the time you’ve polished off dessert, it’s 11.30pm and you’ve had two bottles of wine.
Standard drinks: 15
Don’t drive before: 10.30am. Stay over and sleep in.

A few after work
A few ‘well-earned’ beers after a busy week of work and study. Your first beer is at 5pm, and it’s going down easy so by 9pm you’ve polished off a six pack of full-strength stubbies.
Standard drinks: 9
Don’t drive before: 2am. Pick up the car tomorrow.

Time to party
Your best friend’s having a birthday party at their house. You start drinking at 8pm with a few spirit shots (let’s say three) and throughout the night, you have six pre-mixed spirits.
Standard drinks: 16
Don’t drive before: Noon. Sleep it off.

A big(ger) night out
You meet two friends at the pub at 10pm and share two bottles of wine over a late bite to eat. Four pre-mixed spirits and two shots during two unplanned club visits turn this into a bigger night out than you’d planned.
Standard drinks: 16
Don’t drive before: 2pm. Don’t get behind the wheel today.

Remember — this is a guide only. Everybody is different and you should always allow extra time for your body to process alcohol. Trying to judge exactly how much you can get away with drinking and the latest you would have to stop drinking is a risky strategy that is inviting a crash, a drink drive conviction or disciplinary action.

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