Alcohol & Driving

An Eye on Alcohol

Alcohol has been with us, in one form or another, for a very long time. In the cradle of civilisation, the lands between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates, evidence of wine production and purpose planted vineyards can be seen from at least 6,000 years ago.

There are also indicators that it was in use in both ancient India and China possibly some 9,000 years ago, long before the Romans brought their wine making techniques to Britain.

There are those who abstain from it, perhaps for religious reasons, health, personal reasons, and those either not interested, or plain old just “don’t like it”.

Western societies have in general, taken alcohol to a greater or lesser extent, to be their drug of choice within the bounds of free society.

That alcohol is referred to as a drug may seem surprising, but drug it is, acting as a depressant on the central nervous system which affects certain areas of our brains.

The description “depressant” does not necessarily mean that this drug depresses the mind or mood, it can have the opposite effect in certain circumstances. The impact of drinking it depends on the state of the brain at the time which reflects the effect of the surrounding environment.

In a busy environment with sights and sounds producing more brain activity, the feeling, after moderate intake, can be that of stimulation, lowering self-consciousness and stress.

However, it not a stimulant, as more intake may show, that parts of the central nervous system are depressed by the alcohol. If the brain’s speech centres are depressed, speech may become slurred, similarly the vision centre, resulting in focusing difficulty.

Alcohol & Driving

Higher intake can result in loss of inhibitions, and limb control. This is why alcohol and mechanical responsibilities, such as driving, make poor bedfellows.

Alcoholic drink consumption is generally gauged in units, with a small glass of wine, or a single pub measure of spirits equal to around a half-to-one pint of standard strength beer being recognised as one to two units.

This is expressed as a ratio of blood to alcohol concentration, i.e. mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood. One drink would generally show as 20-50mg/100ml. Other factors can affect the ratio, such as recent food intake, or higher or lower tolerations of alcohol.

If you have been accused of drink driving, or are facing prosecution for failing a breath test or blood test, ask how to best minimise the penalty you receive.

So, one and a half-to-two pints of beer, or the equivalent, would be three to four units giving a level of 50-80mg/100ml. The legal limit for driving a motor vehicle is 80mg/100ml, which means that some people are on or over the limit with an intake of just four units of alcohol.