Unit 1

Alcohol and Drugs

Alcohol and Drugs Alcohol and Drugs

Take note:

  • The risk of an accident doubles with a blood alcohol level of 0.5 g/l (which is the legal limit).
  • Alcohol is a factor in 50 percent of fatal accidents.
  • Over 60 percent of the fatalities it causes are young people.

There should be zero tolerance of alcohol because…

…there is no harmless amount of alcohol. There is a legal limit beyond which sanctions apply, but from the first sip of beer or any other alcoholic drink, alcohol is working against us. Alcohol reduces your ability to drive from the very first drop and without you even realizing.

Of course you remember “don't drink and drive” or “zero tolerance with alcohol”, but sometimes it seems we've heard those warnings so many times they have lost their meaning. So enough of slogans. We are going to give you just one fact: more than a quarter of traffic accident fatalities were young people who had been drinking. You don't find that convincing?

Don't be fooled. And don't fool yourself either.

Are you wondering about how to avoid testing positive if you're stopped by the police? That is a serious mistake. The correct question should be: What is the recommended blood alcohol level to be able to drive safely? And the only possible answer is zero. Set that limit in stone as the safest one.

What is legal... and what is advisable.

In Spain the legally permitted blood alcohol level is 0.5 grams of alcohol per liter of blood, which is equivalent to 0.25 mg of alcohol per liter of exhaled breath (a less precise measure, but it is the measurement used in the breathalyzer machines generally used by authorities such as the traffic division of the Guardia Civil police force). But be careful! If you are a novice driver or a young person, it may be that in your case the limit goes down to 0.3 g/l and 0.15 mg/l respectively.

Remember that taking a breathalyzer test is compulsory, whether it is for a spot check, a traffic violation or if you have been involved in an accident.

“Just a tipple”

We have already told you that alcohol is a factor in 50 percent of fatal accidents but do you really think those drivers were all so drunk they could barely stand? Well no, because the greatest danger from alcohol is that, even in small quantities, it reduces your reflexes and your concentration and causes a kind of euphoria that leads to recklessness. Between the first drink and falling down drunk there is a particularly dangerous phase of euphoria during which you convince yourself you have enhanced powers which, moreover, you feel the need to demonstrate. If you're out with a friend who tells you they have had "just a tipple", do the pair of you a favor; call a cab.

Drugs

  • One in four drivers drives under the influence of drugs.
  • Even legal drugs, like alcohol and tobacco, are dangerous.
  • Thirty percent of drivers drive after taking medication that, in most cases, slows down reflexes.

Things that are legal, illegal and advisable.

Do you smoke? Do you drink? Do you take drugs? Firstly, let's differentiate between legal and illegal drugs, not forgetting for a moment that they are ALL drugs. Statistically, alcohol is especially harmful because of its effects and widespread social acceptance.

Yet tobacco is also a drug, and nicotine is a stimulant of the central nervous system. Your first impression might be that this is a good thing for driving, but the reality is quite different; you feel less tired but you overestimate your abilities and you become poor at assessing risks.

Let's not forget the risks of smoking while driving: the simple act of lighting a cigarette and taking your eye off the road, or of burning ash falling onto you… not to mention the serious health problems it causes.

Illegal drugs: Do you have any idea of what they do to your body?

Nobody knows what effect a drug, whatever it might be, will have on your system. When an unscrupulous person sells you the latest fashionable pill, it doesn't come with a leaflet explaining its ingredients or side effects. This is a course to make you a better driver, so we're not going to lecture you on the dangers of drugs to your health and the addiction they cause (you already know all that), but rather the risk they represent for driving.

Any drug, even in very small quantities, can cause the following effects:

  • States of euphoria or depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Impaired attention span.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Impaired coordination of movements.
  • Altered perception of reality.

As you can work out, any of these symptoms could be dangerous while at the wheel.

Medications

Some medications are also drugs. While they may be legal, regulated and available on prescription, they can also affect your ability to drive. But in the end it doesn't matter if they are considered as drugs or not; the important thing is knowing what effects they cause. In this case, information is your best weapon. Read the leaflet and consult a doctor or pharmacist if you are in any doubt. And whatever the cases, if you don’t feel in full control of your physical or emotional faculties, don’t drive.

You need to be especially careful if you suffer from a chronic illness requiring medication. In this case it is even more important to have the full information. You might find it unbelievable, but about 75 percent of people medicating themselves on a regular basis have not received adequate information about the effect their medication has on driving. It is in your hands to reduce this percentage and to make sure that, for the moment, you are among the 25 percent that does possess this knowledge.

Generally speaking and to recap, take a note of this advice:

  • Self-prescribing might not only be bad for your illness, but could also cause unexpected side effects that affect your abilities at the wheel.
  • Never mix medications without consulting a doctor or pharmacist, and nor should you mix them with alcohol or, worse still, with other drugs.
  • In this, as in almost everything, it's best to listen to your body and identify whether a medication is causing side effects.
  • Don't ignore the warnings given on the information leaflets that come with your medication.
  • And if you have a chronic illness, never interrupt treatment on your own initiative; find out about the effect this might have on driving and consult your doctor if you are in any doubt.