Think before you drink and drive

PHOTO:supplied On average, it takes about one hour for the body to metabolise one unit of alcohol.
PHOTO:supplied On average, it takes about one hour for the body to metabolise one unit of alcohol.

DO not become a statistic this festive season by drinking and driving.

Last year 1 000 people were arrested for driving while intoxicated, according to a recent report by the World Health Organisation,

South Africa has the highest number of drunk-driving-related deaths in the world.

Many people try to reason, mostly with themselves, that they are capable of driving under the influence because they feel they know what they are doing or they know when their limit is.

“The general rule of thumb is a maximum of one unit of alcohol per hour. However, to be safer, if you are going to be driving, rather refrain from drinking any alcohol.

“Alcohol distorts a person’s judgment and perceptions as well as slows down reaction times,” said Doctor Robyn Holgate, Chief Medical Officer of ER24.

She added that there should be zero tolerance when it comes to drinking and driving.

Varying degrees of intoxication can lead to different impacts on people. For example, mild to moderate intoxication could lead to mild inco-ordination, nystagmus (fast involuntary movements of the eyes), ataxia (loss of full control of body movements) and slurred speech while a higher level may lead to coma, respiratory depression and a drop in blood pressure and a person becoming aggressive.

“Before drinking then driving you need to know how many units are in the different drinks and alcohol elimination rates so that you are under the legal limit when you drive.

“It is important to know that the alcohol level in “lite” beers is still very high so it is easy to be over the legal limit and a danger to self and others,” said Caro Smit, founder of South Africans Against Drunk Driving (Sadd).

Holgate said people who consume alcohol should note that the rate at which a person becomes intoxicated varies.

“On average, it takes about one hour for the body to metabolise one unit of alcohol. However, this can vary based on body weight, sex, age, personal metabolic rate, recent food intake, the type and strength of the alcohol and medication taken,” she said.

She explained that if a man and woman of the same weight were to drink the same amount of alcohol at the same rate, the woman would be more intoxicated.

Likewise if a person is using illicit drugs and medication in conjunction with alcohol it can increase the effect of the alcohol consumed. Drinking alcohol while on illicit, over-the-counter and prescription drugs can lead to illness or death.

In addition drinking alcohol on an empty stomach can affect a person more therefore eating before drinking means that alcohol will be absorbed slower. The only sensible rule to be proactive and safe is that your blood alcohol level is zero. Many drinking-fit or practised drinkers never look or act drunk yet their reaction times and driving skills are badly affected.

If a crisis happens in front of them, they are unable to avoid a collision, and that is when disasters happen and people are killed or severely injured,” said Smit.

ER24 can be contacted at 084 124 in case of any medical emergency.

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