In the aftermath of Scotland reducing it’s Drink Drive limit it has become apparent that whoever is responsible for advertising the drink driving limits within Scotland & England either doesn’t drink – or has never actually used an accurate Breathalyzer whilst drinking!
The law recently changed wherein a breath test in the UK is evidence enough to convict someone of drink driving – i.e. you no longer have the right to demand a blood test to confirm the alcohol level. Therefore with a Breath Alcohol limit being the set point at which you are convicted, the only way you would know if you were over the limit is to use a Breathalyzer. But not everyone has one – so how do you know whether or not you are over the limit?
From working in the Alcohol Testing industry I have learnt that we all tolerate and process alcohol at very different rates – the only way one could possibly know their breath alcohol content is to measure it with an accurate Breathalyzer. So often though, I have people not believe their readings – because the Breathalyzer results don’t tally with what they have always been led to believe in terms of how much alcohol will ‘put them over the limit’. When I tell them the below story it usually sinks in that, yes they have probably been guessing wrong all along.
Firstly I should explain that having lived in 4 different countries over 5 years explains my variety of different nationality friends!
I was at a reunion in Scotland with some of my friends. After describing my new job I explained to my Scottish friend who had been away for 2 years that the drink driving limit is now lower for her in Scotland and has gone down to 0.05% BAC. I went on to explain that it is now the same as the French limit where her partner is from. Both of them responded at the same time and this is what they both said:
Scotswoman – ‘Yes, I heard we can’t drink anything now before driving’
Frenchman – ‘Our limit is two glasses of wine, right?’
It took some convincing, but having a Breathalyzer handy always helps. The fact was both statements were wrong for both of them. The Scotswoman was able to have one drink, and half an hour later blow under the limit. The Frenchman had his two glasses of wine over the space of two hours and blew over.
A few weeks later I was telling my Australian friend this story, asking her about the limit over there and how they advertise it. The limit is the same as Scotland and France however they advertise that as long as you only have one drink an hour you will stay under the drink driving limit. If you are shocked by that, that is only for women. For men it is stated as long as you drink less than 2 an hour.
Now lets consider the fact that the limit in England is higher than all three of these countries and generally we advertise that if you want to stay under you should have no more than one drink.
My experience says we all experience some level of impairment after just one drink. Alcohol is a drug and it affects our judgment one way or another whilst it is in our system. It is not unusual for people to feel they shouldn’t drive after one or 2 drinks. The fact that they might be technically under the limit but still legally allowed to drive is the scary thought. I find it even scarier that the media in Australia makes people confident they can drive after many drinks.
My professional opinion is that we should have a no tolerance limit. Set the limit to 0.02% just like Norway and Sweden. It would surprise many people that you could still have that one drink with your dinner and drive a few hours later under this limit.
I advise all the companies that I help set up an alcohol policy to take the Breathalyzer out in their own time and experiment before they set their policy limit. 9 times out of 10 they will then set it as low as 0.02%.