Testing the limits of high level alcohol readings


This week news broke of a Victorian politician who’d been picked up during roadside alcohol testing with a relatively high level of alcohol in his blood while driving. The politician’s indiscretions, unfortunately, reflect general society. Everyday, someone, somewhere is caught driving well over the limit. Like a woman in NSW who blew 6 times the legal limit (that’s around 0.3 per cent blood alcohol level!) with her two children in the car.

While driving at these levels is obviously highly unsafe and likely to lead to a tragedy, or at the very least a hefty fine and loss of licence) the question many people ask is how high can you go before the level of alcohol in your blood becomes unsafe? When is one more, one too many?

Alcohol – testing the limits

The question isn’t as easy to answer as you might think. That’s because the effects of alcohol, like any drug, are highly individual. You’ve probably noticed this yourself when out drinking or when around people who are drinking. After 3 pots of beer you might be starting to feel the effects of alcohol already and after 6 you’re slurring your words and staggering around. At the same time, your mate, who’s had the same quantity of beer, might not be showing any sign of being inebriated.

These individual factors may also mean that you could be passing out at 0.3 blood alcohol level (BAC), while someone else, like the female driver mentioned above, can still somehow drive a car.

That said, there is a guide to high level drinking and determining how high is too high:

  • When BAC gets over 0.1, around twice the legal limit in most states, motor coordination for most people will be impaired. The drinker may feel good and may even argue that they’re fine, but anyone who’s sober will notice that the person is getting drunk and will notice things like impairment of speech, balance, hearing and reaction times.
  • After a couple more drinks, at around 0.15 BAC, most people will exhibit a lack of physical control. Emotions can also become inconsistent, with happiness and euphoria quickly changing to anxiety, restlessness and perhaps even anger.
  • Approaching 0.2 BAC, most of us will probably recognise it’s time to stop drinking. For many people, this is the stage that they will feel nauseous and perhaps dazed, confused, disorientated and unbalanced.
  • For those that don’t recognise the signs and keep drinking, at 0.25 BAC the dangers really start to mount. At this level it’s possible to choke on your own vomit and the risk of an accident such as a fall is increased.
  • At 0.30 BAC – the level of the female driver mentioned above – while many people will have passed out, at the very least the drinker will have little idea of what is happening. Ask their name and they may have trouble answering.
  • Finally, if you do keep drinking (or are capable of continuing to drink!) at between 0.35 and 0.4 BAC, a coma is imminent and the risk of death due to respiratory arrest is high.

Alcohol testing may show that a driver is well over the limit and at increased risk of having an accident, but are they also putting their immediate health at risk

Alcohol testing may show that a driver is well over the limit and at increased risk of having an accident, but are they also putting their immediate health at risk Credit Laura Blume  https://www.flickr.com/photos/laurablume/5354999341/

By Michael

Michael is the founder of Integrity Sampling and is responsible for overseeing all national operations. He is based at Integrity Sampling's head office in Melbourne and is also responsible for the co-ordination of drug and alcohol testing within Victoria, assisting in the implementation of drug and alcohol (fit for work) policies and the presentation of drug and alcohol education and awareness programs. You can connect with Michael Wheeldon on LinkedIn

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