Saskatchewan Driver's Handbook


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Alcohol

2016 facts about drinking and driving in Saskatchewan1:

  • A drinking driver is involved in four out of every 10 fatal collisions.
  • There is a drinking driver in approximately one out of seven collisions where someone is injured.
  • Of the 54 people killed, 35 were drivers, 10 were passengers and nine were pedestrians.
  • Of the 54 people killed, 28 were killed on provincial highways, 14 on rural roads, six on urban streets and six on First Nations roads.
  • Those aged 25-34 are involved in the most alcohol-related collisions.

The impairing effects of alcohol on the brain

Alcohol affects everyone differently. Blood alcohol content (BAC) may be affected by age, gender, physical condition, and amount of food consumed, medication and other factors. Also, different mixed drinks contain different amounts of alcohol, so it's important to know how much alcohol has been consumed, not just how many drinks the person has had.

Sequence of effects on the body

Alcohol is absorbed into the blood stream very quickly. As blood alcohol levels start to rise, the brain becomes increasingly sedated or drugged.

  1. Judgment
    The first part of the body affected by alcohol is the brain, particularly the part of the brain that allows you to think clearly and make good decisions. Its sedative effects impair judgment in a way that is usually not noticed by the drinker. The part of the brain that controls social inhibitions is also affected, causing people to say and do things they normally would not. These effects start with one drink.
  2. Muscle control
    The second part of the body affected by alcohol is muscle control. Due to the small muscles in the eye being very susceptible to the effects of alcohol, vision can be significantly affected, even at low alcohol levels.

Many people wrongly assess their ability to drive after drinking by observing physical dexterity (staggering, etc.). This is incorrect as the greatest percentage of alcohol-related collisions result from faulty thinking during the identification, prediction and decision parts of the driving task and not as a result of poor execution (steering, braking, etc.).

The brain functions that are first affected by alcohol consumption are not only important to our ability to drive safely, but are the same ones required to make rational decisions about not driving after drinking. For this reason, you must make the decision to separate your drinking and driving and make the necessary alternate transportation plans before you have that first drink! It does not make sense to drive after drinking. For more information on the effects of alcohol and drugs, contact your nearest Alcohol and Drug Services office.

How alcohol affects you

BACTypical EffectsPredictable Effects on Driving
.02%
  • Some loss of judgment
  • Relaxation
  • Slight body warmth
  • Altered mood
  • Decline in visual functions (rapid tracking of a moving target)
  • Decline in ability to perform two tasks at the same time (divided attention)
.05%
  • Exaggerated behavior
  • May have loss of small muscle control (e.g., focusing your eyes)
  • Impaired judgment
  • Usually good feeling
  • Lowered alertness
  • Release of inhibition
  • Reduced coordination
  • Reduced ability to track moving objects
  • Difficulty steering
  • Reduced response to emergency driving situations
.08%
  • Muscle coordination becomes poor (e.g., balance, speech, vision, reaction time, and hearing)
  • Harder to detect danger
  • Judgment, self control, reasoning and memory are impaired
  • Concentration
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Speed control
  • Reduced information processing capability (e.g., signal detection, visual search)
  • Impaired perception
.10%
  • Clear deterioration of reaction time and control
  • Slurred speech, poor coordination, and slowed thinking
  • Reduced ability to maintain lane position and brake appropriately
.15%
  • Far less muscle control than normal
  • Vomiting may occur (unless this level is reached slowly or a person has developed a tolerance for alcohol)
  • Major loss of balance
  • Substantial impairment in vehicle control, attention to driving task, and in necessary visual and auditory information processing
.16% and greaterExtreme crash risk!Extreme crash risk!

Note: Guide based on averages – not for legal use. Information borrowed from Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

Likelihood of a crash

As the concentration of alcohol in the bloodstream increases, the body loses more and more of the functions required to drive safely. The increased likelihood of a crash begins long before drivers feel drunk or severely impaired.

It is important to understand BAC and its impact on driving at various levels. Driving impaired, even at low levels, is a real gamble.

The only truly safe BAC is 0%.

 .05 - .09% BAC.10 - .14% BAC.15+% BAC
Increased likelihood of crash11x48x380x

BAC and time

Only time can eliminate alcohol from the body. You cannot successfully sleep off a night of heavy drinking in a few hours. If you go to bed intoxicated with a BAC of .25% and alcohol leaves the system at a rate of approximately .015% per hour, this might be a picture of what happens:

TimeActivitySample BAC
Midnightgoes to bed.25 
1 a.m.sleeps2.235
2 a.m.sleeps2.22 
3 a.m.sleeps2.205
4 a.m.sleeps2.19 
5 a.m.sleeps2.175
6 a.m.sleeps2.16 
7 a.m.gets up for work.145
8 a.m.feels dry mouth.13 
9 a.m.at work.115
10 a.m.still legally intoxicated.1  
11 a.m.spills coffee.085
Noonstill feels tired.07 
1 p.m.mind feels foggy.055
2 p.m.feeling irritable.04 
3 p.m.starting to feel better.025
4 p.m.head clearing.01 
5 p.m.goes home.00 

Note: The above situation is only an example. Alcohol effects each person differently.

 

Footnotes

  1. Based on preliminary 2016 Traffic Accident Information System (TAIS) collision statistics.
  2. Very restless sleep with a lot of tossing and turning.

Disclaimer

Rev: 2017