Car Advice

Myth-Busting: I’m safe to drive after drinking one or two drinks

Most people will claim that they’re under the limit and thus fine to drive after drinking one or two alcoholic drinks. But are you safe to drive after one or two drinks?

SCIENCE SAYS, NO. There’s no absolute safe level of alcohol consumption for competent/safe driving. And even just one drink is enough to impair your driving ability, affecting things like your ability to see or locate moving lights, judge distances, and you’re more likely to take risks when driving, too.

Drive at the legal limit of 0.05 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and you’re twice as likely to be involved in a collision than before drinking. Beyond 0.05 BAC you’re a staggering eight times more likely to be involved in a collision than before you had a drink.

Alcohol hits your brain within minutes of being consumed and hangs around until your body metabolises the alcohol, and the time it takes to do this varies depending on the type of drink you consume, your height, age, size, and sex, the length of time you consumed the alcohol across, whether food was consumed, the health of your liver, and your fitness, etc.

When can I drive after drinking?

The guidelines state that males can drink no more than two standard drinks in the first hour (containing no more than 10g of alcohol each), followed by one standard drink every hour after than. A standard drink might be 30ml of spirits, 285ml of beer or 375ml of low-alcohol beer, 100ml of wine or 60ml of sherry or port.

Effects of drinking and driving

As the alcohol lobs in your brain, the brain’s activity begins to slow down. This is a fact. And this means, if you’re driving a car, that you’ll start focussing on one thing at a time, like steering, but you won’t notice peripheral things, like a child running out onto the street or a car braking ahead of you, or maybe even the traffic lights changing. According to research, a blood alcohol of 0.02% is enough to see hand shaking appear and thus an inability to control lane position while driving, with the result that the driver is more likely to wander in and out of their lane. And, as mentioned, perception of what’s occurring around them also diminishes, even if the driver doesn’t realise it.

Drinking and driving statistics

Looking at research data, it seems that when questioned almost no-one can accurately predict whether, after one or two drinks, they’re under or over the legal limit. This has led to various medial professional groups calling for a lowering of the blood alcohol limit from 0.05% to 0.02% and then onto 0%. But then, research also shows that fatigue and dehydration can be just as affecting as a blood alcohol limit of 0.05%. Around 15% of collisions in Australia are alcohol-related (but alcohol was the contributing factor in 30% of fatal collisions), while 17% are related to fatigue. But I digress.

Essentially, just about everyone agrees that while the blood alcohol limit might be 0.05% there really is no safe level of alcohol you can have in your system and still be ‘fine’ to drive a vehicle. And while I hate to sound like a parent, if you’re planning on drinking, then organise an alternative way of getting home. Don’t risk driving even after just one drink.

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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober