Out for seasonal cheer? Leave the car at home

Des Ryan, CRA Board Director and our safety and security lead, dispels the myths around alcohol consumption and impairment.

Impaired driving. Let’s say the words and call it what it is. We have all been inundated with PSA’s telling us not to do it, that it could cost you more than your licence, that it’s just wrong. And yet….

On behalf of the Cabbagetown Residents Association and in the name of neighbourly concern for you and your family, let me dispel some of the myths about alcohol consumption:

If I pace myself and have a drink an hour, I’ll be fine.

While it takes about an hour for your body to process alcohol, if you continue to drink, you continue to infuse your blood with alcohol, which means that you may not get blisteringly drunk, but you will be impaired.

Water after each alcoholic beverage will stop me from getting drunk.

We all know that alcohol causes dehydration, and drinking water is a good idea to lessen that dry-mouth feeling the next day and/or help with your hang-over symptoms, but it won’t change the level of alcohol in your bloodstream.

A coffee before I leave the restaurant will override the effects of the alcohol we drank.

Nope. The caffeine in the coffee may keep you awake, but it won’t sober you up. Nor will fresh air or a cold shower.

I only drink beer, so I can have more than my wine- or liquor-drinking friends.

Nice try, but no. An average pint of beer (ABV 5%), glass of wine (250ml, ABV 11%), or healthy shot of liquor (70ml, ABV38-40%) all have around 2.8 units of alcohol. The only difference is that you may feel less drunk because or your own expectations. The car you sideswiped or the mailbox you knocked over if you drive home doesn’t care what you drank.

I’m a big guy, so I can drink more.

While your size is a factor, and women will get drunk faster and stay drunk longer, a single drink can cause legal alcohol impairment, regardless of your size, gender, or age.

I’ve been drinking a long time so it takes me longer to get drunk.

The more you drink over time, the more damage your body sustains and the greater the risks become. If you can toss back a few more brewskies this season than last without feeling the same effects, consider that a warning sign that your body may be starting to experience long-term damage caused by alcohol.

What if I wait an hour after my last drink?

While lowering your blood/alcohol concentration, giving yourself an hour after your last drink may not be enough time to make that much difference to your blood/alcohol levels.

We ate dinner with our drinks. That should count, shouldn’t it?

Good food over a glass of wine or two is always nice, but it will only delay the rate of alcohol absorption, which is to say, you will still experience the same level of impairment (whether meeting the legal definition or not), but it will take longer for you to feel the symptoms.

I drink white wine and I never feel impaired at all.

Hopefully, you drink white wine because you like it because it is not keeping you sober. Unless the alcohol level is lower, a glass of white or red wine, a bottle of beer or a shot of liquor can all contain the same amount of alcohol and will give similar readings on a breathalyzer.

How about having a couple of drinks in the afternoon? I’ll be sober quicker.

No. Just … no.

We are fortunate to have a number of excellent pubs and restaurants in the neighbourhood. We are also fortunate to have a number of excellent places to eat and that are easily accessible by public transit or taxi. Most of us are also fortunate to have a family member or friends who would gladly pick us up from such places in the event that we were unable to walk or take public transit or a cab home.

There is no excuse for impaired driving. And there is certainly no excuse for ruining your life and, likely, someone else’s because you figured a drink or two wouldn’t hurt.

Let’s keep it simple this year. If you’re going out for a little seasonal cheer, leave the car at home. You are worth more than you think to the people who love you.

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