Don’t get caught the ‘morning after’

Even though we are in challenging times, we can’t escape the fact that we are heading into office party season and inevitably, alcohol will play a part at such events.

Most people are responsible and accept that drinking and driving is a definite no no, however, there is a small sector of society who for one reason or another will take to the road and drive after having consumed alcohol, I’m not going to attempt to discuss this, but I am more concerned about the person who ‘might’ drink and drive through lack of knowledge.

Many Police forces have already announced the commencement of their drink-drive campaign and we can expect to see the Police conducting breath tests in the morning, this catches out the unsuspecting driver who was out the night before drinking and did the sensible thing and made alternative arrangements to get home, however, they perhaps didn’t consider the amount of alcohol being consumed and the possibility of being over the limit the following day!

To help avoid getting into the ‘morning after’ scenario, we need to understand drinks as units of alcohol consumed, not the strength of the drink. That’s because it takes the body on average one hour to get rid of one unit of alcohol, it’s a process that we can’t speed up.

Before we go too far into this blog, there is a question we always get asked, ‘how much can I drink before I go over the limit’? This is an impossible question to answer because we are all different, and for some, even a small amount of alcohol impairs their ability to drive safely, even though they may not be over the limit, so, if you are going to drive, absolutely no alcohol is by far the best policy.

So then, how do we know how many units of alcohol are in a drink? That’s simple for bottled and canned drinks, just look at the label on the back, there is a symbol of a bottle or can and a value, if it showed say 1.5, that’s how many units of alcohol the drink contains, meaning that it will take our body one and a half hours to get rid of all that alcohol, remember, one unit per hour.

If we are consuming drinks served in a glass, then it is all about volume and strength. There is a very simple formula to work out how many units, you take the drink volume in ml, then multiply it by the % strength, then divide by 1000. Let’s look at an example, a medium wine (175ml) at 12.5% strength. The calculation is 175 X 12.5 = 2187.5 If you divide this by 1000, you get 2.1875, round this up to 2.2, this is how many units of alcohol that drink contains.

Here are some typical drinks and units:

  • Pint of ordinary strength beer – 2 units
  • Small wine – 1.5 units
  • Standard wine – 2.2 units
  • Large wine – 3.1 units
  • Spirit (25ml measure) – 1 unit

Here’s a shocker – three large glasses of wine is actually the entire bottle, and at an average strength of 13%, that’s 9.75 units, nine and three-quarter hours to get rid of!

Working on the assumption that we may have more than one drink, we would need to tot up all the units consumed over the session, then convert units to hours, so, if you’ve had say 9 units, not a heavy session, it would take 9 hours to get rid of the alcohol!

Although your body will begin to process alcohol straight away, well, usually within 30 minutes or so, it’s likely that you will be adding units faster than you are getting rid of them and it’s impossible to keep tabs and work out when all of the alcohol will have left your body, so, the best option is to calculate the total units in hours, and wok forward in time from when you finished your last drink.

If we take our 9 units as an example, and say we finished drinking at 11:30 pm, around 8:30 the next morning we can safely assume all the alcohol will have gone.

Here are some poignant questions though; what if you drank more, far more, and finished later? And, you had to drive to work the next morning? Is it possible you could still be over the drink-drive limit? If you got pulled in for a spot check by the Police, you might just find the answer to that question the hard way!

The penalties are tough:

Being in charge of a vehicle while above the legal limit or unfit through drink

You may get:

  • 3 months’ imprisonment
  • up to £2,500 fine
  • a possible driving ban

Driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit or unfit through drink

You may get:

  • 6 months’ imprisonment
  • an unlimited fine
  • a driving ban for at least 1 year (3 years if convicted twice in 10 years)

Setting the penalties aside, drink-related collisions have an immense impact on society, they devastate lives in an unimaginable way, so please, if you do like a drink, think about the morning after, you now know how to work out when it will be safe for you to drive, doing the maths will enable you to work out when to stop drinking.

Business leaders, please inform your staff about the dangers of drinking and driving and in particular, the morning after scenario and, if you are interested in making sure your staff know about this kind of thing, and a whole load of other driver safety topics, could I tempt you to take a look at my driver training courses, especially the online options, here is a LINK to my training page.

Happy Christmas everyone, stay safe out there.