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‘Morning after’ drink driving on the increase

Frank Sinatra reputedly joked “I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they wake up in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day.”

The reality unfortunately is that people who drink the night before could find their day going rapidly downhill.

According to research from LV= car insurance ‘morning after’ drink driving is on the increase with more motorists putting themselves and other road users at risk. There appears to be a widespread lack of understanding of just how long it can take for the body to get rid of alcohol with many drivers seriously underestimating the time it takes. It is perhaps no coincidence that last year France introduced the legal requirement to carry a breathalyser to self-test. The lack of knowledge is widespread, leaving drivers here to use judgment. The problem is that in many cases judgment is either flawed or distorted by drink.

It takes about an hour for the body to get rid of one unit of alcohol although this varies depending on body mass and gender. Nearly half of drivers spoken to did not know how long they had to wait to be clear to drive, or underestimated it.

The research suggests that since 2012 one in 30 (3% or 1.2 million) motorists have driven while still over the legal alcohol limit the ‘morning after’ and in many cases these drivers did not realise.

Although the number of drink drive arrests is falling, police arrested 4 per cent more drink drivers between the hours of 6am and 8am in 2012 than in 2011.

Among all those drivers who knew they were over the drink drive limit in the morning, one in five (19 per cent) said they believed they were okay to drive at the time, that driving was unavoidable (37 per cent) or it was just a short distance (26 per cent).

Close to one in 10 (7 per cent) thought it was acceptable as they weren’t driving on a motorway and one in eight (13 per cent) said they were only a little over the limit so it did not matter.

The research suggest that ‘morning after’ drink drivers are on average five hours away from being sober enough to drive when they get behind the wheel.

These are in many ways quite surprising statistics. I think that there is a real lack of awareness about how the body deals with alcohol. I frequently hear people saying they thought a night’s sleep or even a few hours is sufficient to get rid of alcohol consumed the night before.

The LV= research shows that men are more likely than women to be over the limit when they drive the morning after a night drinking (78% and 22% respectively). This is because men will consume a greater number of alcohol units on a night out and are more likely to use their car the morning after. LV= says that on average, morning after drivers consume 19 units of alcohol (e.g. seven pints of strong lager or six 250ml glasses of wine) and then drive their car just 10 hours after having their first drink – meaning that they are five hours away from being sober enough to drive legally.

The legal limits allow a driver to have a maximum of 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, 35mg per 100ml of breath or 107mg per 100ml of urine. Figures suggest this equates to approximately four units for an average man and two to three units for an average woman but the amount varies between people and needs treating with real caution. It takes about an hour for the body to break down one unit of alcohol, but that this can vary according to on a number of factors including the person’s age, weight, gender and metabolism. Estimating or guessing is a very risky business.

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