If you think a Lite beer has less
alcohol, you believe one of the many myths about drinking.
The festive season is almost upon
us, which means parties, braais and family get-togethers are in full
swing. As the party mood takes hold, people tend to let their hair down
and enjoy a few drinks.
Having two glasses of wine is nothing
to worry about, right? Many people believe men can have two drinks and women
one and still be within the legal limit when they get behind the wheel of a
car. But in reality it’s much more complicated than that.
There are many myths surrounding
alcohol consumption and drunk driving. In fact, you could be breaking the law
without realising it.
safest number of drinks
Instead of asking yourself how many
drinks you can have before you go over the legal limit, Johan Jonck of
ArriveAlive.co.za suggests you rather ask yourself how many drinks you should
have before your driving is affected. And the answer to that is none.
“The thought that you’ve taken or
destroyed someone’s life in a road crash could lead to psychological trauma
even if you were within the legal limit,” he says.
“Your conscience may keep reminding
you that the accident could have been prevented if you’d been 100 percent alert
and capable of taking preventative measures.”
is the legal limit?
in general: <0,05 g/100 ml blood alcohol content OR <0,24 mg/1 000 ml
breath alcohol content
Drivers*: <0,02 g/100 ml blood alcohol content OR <0,10 mg/1 000 ml
breath alcohol content
1. Men can have two drinks and women
This is a myth, says Angus MacArthur,
general manager of Alcohol Breathalysers CC. Just because you’re a man it
doesn’t mean you can have two beers without a worry in the world.
Several factors can influence blood
alcohol content (BAC) – for instance if you’re small, you skipped dinner or
you’re following a strenuous exercise regime. “The amount a person may consume
to remain below the legal limit is dependent on body weight, body composition,
metabolism and time taken to consume the alcohol,” MacArthur explains.
“Food in the digestive tract may
absorb alcohol, allowing the body to cope with it over a longer period.
Metabolism affects the speed at which alcohol is eliminated from the blood
stream. Fitter people may feel ‘drunker’ quicker but will eliminate alcohol
quicker than an unfit person.”
One drink isn’t always one drink,
warns Caro Smit, director of South Africans Against Drunk.
Driving (SADD). “We should talk about
units, not drinks,” she says. For example, 75 ml of red wine is one unit
but a glass of wine at a bar is usually larger. A 250 ml glass, for example,
equals 3, 5 units, which pushes most people over the limit.
2. I had only one drink an hour
It’s true you can usually get rid
of one unit of alcohol an hour – but this rule applies to units,
“If each drink contains more than one
unit, for example four double brandies or four quarts, you’ll be over the legal
limit even if you’ve spaced the drinks over four hours,” MacArthur says.
3. I drank beer, not hard
Alcohol is alcohol and it all depends
on the number of units you consume in a given period, MacArthur explains.
“A quart of lager contains about four units of alcohol, which is equal to two
double shots of whisky or vodka.”
And did you know there’s a difference
between a Lite beer and a light beer?
People should be wary of drinks
marked “Lite”, Smit warns. Lite stands for “light in total energy”. If it’s
called light it’s lower in alcohol.
4. I'll be sober after a few
hours of sleep
You’ve had a big night out, drinking
until the early hours. You did the responsible thing and took a taxi home but
now, after a few hours’ sleep, you get behind the wheel of your car. Beware –
you could still be over the limit.
“Sleep doesn’t sober you up.
You need about one hour for every unit of alcohol consumed before you get back
to zero,” MacArthur explains.
If you’ve had three quarts of lager,
which contain four units each, it will take 12 hours before your blood alcohol
content reaches zero.
5. Coffee will sober me up
You may feel more alert after a cup
of coffee but don’t let that fool you. “Coffee contains caffeine, which is a
stimulant. It may make you feel like you’re sobering up but you’re not. It will
not reduce the amount of alcohol in your blood,” MacArthur says.
“Only time gets rid of alcohol,” Smit
adds. “Not coffee, not water, only time.”
6. You can trick a breathalyser
Salt on your tongue, chewing gum or
smoking won’t change the outcome of a breathalyser test.
“Police use only fuel-cell and
infrared sensor breathalysers, which aren’t affected by gums and lozenges,”
7. I drive better if I've had one or
Even small doses of alcohol can
impair your visual functions, causing longer eye fixation time, tunnel vision
and defective attention switching, says Johan Jonck of ArriveAlive.co.za.
Driving requires multitasking and
even a low BAC impairs rapid information analysis, delaying prompt and
appropriate decision-making, he adds. MacArthur agrees.
“Alcohol acts as a depressant and
sedative affecting your body’s nervous system. Your reaction speed,
concentration and vision will be affected by just one unit of alcohol.”
You’re at great risk of dying in a
car crash even if you stay within South Africa’s legal limit, according to the
World Health Organisation’s Global Status Report On Road Safety 2015. Your risk
of dying in a car crash is three times greater with a BAC of between 0, 02 and
0, 05 percent than if you haven’t had alcohol.
8. I'll just drive slower
No matter your speed, if cops stop
you while you’re drunk expect to spend the night in jail. And slowing
down won’t prevent you from causing a serious accident.
If you drive in front of a lorry or
hit a pedestrian you could still cause serious injury or even death, MacArthur
to have a good time and be safe
1. Appoint a designated driver
Take turns among your friends to be
the designated sober driver.Also, if you plan a party, consider organising
For instance you could hire a minibus
to shuttle your wedding guests to and from the venue.
2. Learn the alcohol units of various
types of drink
ml red wine: 1 UNIT
ml white wine: 1 UNIT
ml cider: 2 UNITS
ml spirit cooler: 1-2 UNITS
ml beer: 2,2 UNITS
3. Use a taxi service
If you know you’re going to drink,
don’t drive to the party. Rather call a taxi. Take-me-home services will send a
driver to your destination to drive you and your car home (book in advance).
Check your life insurance policy – some offer a take-me-home service a few
times a year.
*People who transport goods,
dangerous substances or passengers for income. The limit takes into account
that drivers may be taking medication containing alcohol.
All values quoted in this article are
approximate. The safest rule is to consume no alcohol before driving.