Drunken driving: How much is too much?

DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE. This statement has been repeated a million times world over and yet people continue to drink and drive, believing that accidents cannot happen to them.

Chilling statistics prove drunken driving is a major cause of accidents. India has the highest number of road accidents in the world killing 1,34,000 people every year. Of this 70% or over 93,800 cases are due to consumption of alcohol.

drunken driving in india

Across cities in India, police have been setting up check points to curb the menace of drunken driving and prosecuting offenders. Fines and jail terms still aren’t enough and accidents continue to rise. India in fact has among the lowest limits for alcohol levels in blood, but still our road accidents and alcohol-related cases are higher than most parts of the developed world.

What does the law say?

Police measure blood alcohol content (BAC) by using a breathalyzer. The legal limit of alcohol content in blood is 0.03% or 30mg per 100ml of blood. If a person driving a car has a BAC level of 30mg per 100 ml of blood, he or she can be booked under section 185 of the Motor Vehicle Act, which consists of imprisonment of up to six months or fine of up to Rs. 2,000 or both. For a subsequent offence within three years, the prison term can extend up to 2 years with a fine of Rs. 3,000 or both.

One’s reflexes while driving a motor vehicle can be impaired with a blood alcohol content of anything above zero. Even things like cough syrups and certain health tonics such as Waterbury’s compound contain alcohol, which can be detected in the blood stream, but in small quantities. This is why most manufacturers of such tonics and cough syrups also print stern warnings on the labels about not driving or operating machinery after consuming these medicines.

Statistic show that people with even a small percentage of alcohol in their bloodstream are 2.5 times more likely to be involved in an accident than those who don’t have alcohol. So just how much alcohol does it take to cross the legal limit?

How much is too much?

Ideally, any alcohol is too much. However, since the law stipulates a maximum limit of 30 mg per 100 ml of blood, one would think it is perfectly legal to have a couple of drinks and then drive home. But think again. This limit can very easily be crossed before you know it.

Alcohol absorption in the blood stream is affected by two things – the body mass of the person and the amount of hydration or water content in the body. Those of you who do enjoy your drinks, would have noticed that some days it takes a few more drinks than other days to get tipsy and sometimes it takes very little.

First let’s take a look at just how much alcohol content there is in common alcoholic drinks:

Alcoholic drink / serving size

Alcohol percentage

Total ml of alcohol in 1 serving

Regular beer (330 ml or 1 pint)

4%

13.2 ml of alcohol

Regular whisky (30 ml or 1 small)

43%

12.9 ml of alcohol

Regular wine (100 ml or 1 glass)

12%

12 ml of alcohol

 

Virginia Tech University had conducted a study to see just how much alcohol one can consume and what percentage of blood alcohol content that relates to. Here are the findings.

For an average adult male who weighs about 65 Kg these are the limits. To stay within the legal limit this is what he can consume:

  • 2 pints of beer (660 ml)
    Or
  •  1 large whisky (60 ml)
    Or
  • 2 glasses of wine (200 ml)

Alcohol remains in the body and is metabolized slowly by the liver and the rest is excreted through urine, sweat and breath. It takes a while for this process to take place, and it’s always safer to wait for its effect to wear off before you try driving again.

How long after a drink can you drive?

Research has shown that it takes about one hour to process about 9.5 ml of alcohol in the body. The above data is the maximum amount you can consume to stay within the legal limit. But it’s always safer to drive without any sort of alcoholic influence.

This means that if you’ve had even a pint of beer, you will need to wait at least 90 minutes after you’ve had that drink to be able to drive again without being affected by alcohol. If you’ve had one large whisky, you will have to wait at least three hours before you can drive without being affected by alcohol. However, trace amounts of alcohol will continue to remain in the bloodstream for up to 12 hours.

If you’ve had a drink, what can you do?

Sometimes on social occasions with friends one does have a drink. Try to stick to the above limits and wait it out before you drive back. But if you can’t there are some services now that can help out. You can easily call a radio taxi from EasyCabs or Meru for instance to come pick you up and drop you home. EasyCabs also offers an “Easy Driver” service in some cities in India, where you can request a driver to come and drive you home in your own car. The other option if you are out drinking with a group of friends is to have one designated driver for the evening, who won’t drink and is responsible for ferrying everyone home safely. If you party often in a group, you can have a rotation system of designated drivers each time you go out.

Skoda recently had a campaign for its customers, valid till end may, which stated “You drink, we drive”, where Skoda owners could call the company (http://www.skoda-auto.co.in/ind/pages/ifyoudrinkwedrive.aspx) and a chauffeur would be deployed to drive the customer home.

But the easiest solution is “DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE”. CarToq encourages you to share this information with people you think would find it useful. Please drive safe and be a responsible citizen.