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Drinking and Driving

Alcohol can be described as both a tonic and a poison. The difference between “tonic and poison” lies in the dose. Moderate levels of alcohol can be beneficial for the heart and circulatory system and may protect against diabetes and gallstones. However excessive alcohol intake can cause many health problems and premature death. Most of us like a few “sociable drinks” but we all know there can be negative effects on our health (both mental and physical) and other aspects of our life. While nobody likes a “party pooper”, it is important to consider these negative effects. I previously discussed the affects of alcohol on health, medication etc. You can find these articles on . This article discusses the effects driving and aims to help you judge how long the day after it is safe until you can drive again.


Sobering facts

For some however, life after this weekend won’t be the same. With an average of 172 drivers per week in 2017 arrested on suspicion of drink driving, life may never be the same for those that choose to drink and drive.

For some, their lives will be blighted forever by the loss of a loved one caused by someone who chose to drive whilst over the limit. In the six years between 2008 and 2012, over 1,000 people died on Irish roads and of these, forensic analysis revealed that alcohol was a main contributing factor in 40% of those fatalities.

Alarmingly, or should that be re-assuring, the figures of those arrested for drink driving related offences continues to rise, (+11% in 2017 over 2016) which is in part due to a more positive aggressive approach on the part of the authorities in tackling the carnage. With “permitted” alcohol tolerance level for driving being reduced in October 2018, the hope is that the numbers of those choosing to drink and drive will decrease, leading to a correlation in a reduction of alcohol related fatalities. In a Behaviour and Attitudes survey in 2017 on behalf of Drinkaware, the number one road safety concern for the public was “Driving under the influence of alcohol” at 41%, just over twice the figure for the next biggest factor which was “Exceeding the speed limit” at 19%. Road safety public awareness campaigns seems to be making people more aware of the biggest dangers on the road.

Just think about this for a moment, is it worth it? What would life look like for you and your family if you choose to drink and drive and the worst happens. A ban? Fines? Work? Injuring or killing yourself or someone else? Sobering thoughts.

Ultimately, the decision to get behind the wheel of a car is a decision only an individual can make for themselves. Stated plainly by the RSA however leaves little room for doubt, “Any alcohol impairs driving and increases the risk of a collision. This is not an opinion, it’s scientific fact.” Add other factors like tiredness or alcohol with drugs (legal or illegal), increases the risks even further. If you are taking prescription medicines, read the information leaflet that is supplied or better still consult with your pharmacist for advice.

Anyone that drives should be familiar with the regulations and what constitutes over the limit. If you ‘google’ “Drink Driving Risk Ireland”, you will find a wealth of information in terms of the law, limits, effects of alcohol on the driver etc. I include some key web resources at the end of this article.

Plan in advance

Adopting a positive approach and planning is the key. A myriad of events surrounding your home and work life often involve alcohol (parties, weddings, birthdays, the match, the “one” drink after work, the list goes on). Taking personal accountability for your own actions and having a plan to avoid using the car is the responsible thing to do.

Giving yourself as many options or choices will help. Some things to help might be: -

* Can you be part of a group that take it in turns to be the designated driver?

* Can you get a bus or a train?

* Taxi?

* If the night develops, have you a contingency? Can someone collect you?

* Local hotel or B&B number perhaps?


The morning after

Planning in advance will help you enjoy your outing so much more. However, what a lot of people fail to consider is “the morning after”, especially if you need to use the car early the next day; perhaps you drive for work, get your kids to school, go to mass etc. In general, most people massively overestimate (i.e. too soon) when they think they are ok to drive the next day.

The myths

Let’s bust a couple of myths here. Jumping into a shower (cold or hot!) first thing will not in any way affect the amount of alcohol in your body. You may feel physically better, but it has no influence on your alcohol / blood level. Consuming quantities on coffee has no bearing whatsoever on how quickly the alcohol in your system will disappear. The only thing that does this is time. When you are fit to drive next day is largely down to how long it is since you had your last drink.

How long do you have to wait the morning after to drive?

The body processes alcohol at pretty much the same rate for us all and that is around 1 unit of alcohol per hour. For example, 4 pints or 4 large glasses of wine or 4 doubles of spirits = 8 units = 8 hours minimum

So, you can work it out for yourself – it’s been a great night, plenty of drink taken, craic was mighty - home at 2 am…. what time can you safely get behind the wheel? It doesn’t take much past the example above to get you well into the afternoon next day before you should be driving.


Did you know that 12% of all drink driving arrests occur between 8 am and 2pm, of these, more than a third happen on Sunday between 11 am and 2pm. Preparing for the “time allowance” the next day is as important as planning beforehand. A useful aid to help you with this is your own little breathalyser. These are widely available with styles and models varying to suit all budgets. Disposable single use models are proving popular and available from Whelehans Pharmacies for €3.99; however, by design they are limited (i.e. one use only). Another option is to buy a re-usable one that you can keep in the car or at home. These are available everywhere, shops, online etc. At Whelehans, over Christmas and New Year, we tested the Alcosense Lite pocket breathalyser available from Halfords, voted the What Car best product in its category under £40. Once calibrated, it seemed to give good results and offered significant help in assessing the “real” time it takes for your body to process alcohol. This also helps you in understanding your own body function, making you much more aware of how long you need to take before driving the next day after drinking the night before. However, bear in mind, as recently warned by the RDA and Gardai, home tests are not as

accurate as the Gardai roadside tests so while gives you an indication you may be over or under the limit, it should not be relied on 100%.

In conclusion, adopting a zero-tolerance policy to drinking, leaving the car at home and planning how you manage your outing and the day after, will allow you to enjoy your drinking even more and prevent the some of the horrendous scenarios I allude to above. As the saying goes, “Knowledge is Power”; here are some online resources that can you help you make the right decisions The RSA:- Drinkaware: - Ask about Alcohol Medications and Drugs

For health advice and information call in to Whelehans Pharmacies, log on to or dial 04493 34591 (Pearse St) or 04493 10266 (Clonmore).