Drink driving and the limit.
"SINN Fein TD Martin Ferris has been found to be under the legal limit for drink-driving.
Mr Ferris - who took to the election campaign trail yesterday in his Renault car - said in a statement issued early yesterday that the results of samples taken from him three weeks ago were negative.
Gardai in Tralee said that Mr Ferris's reading was not negative and that there was alcohol in his system, but they confirmed he was not over the legal limit.
Mr Ferris was stopped in the early hours after leaving a pub near his home in Ardfert to drive the short distance home on April 22. After failing two breath tests, he was arrested and taken to Tralee Garda Station, where he gave a urine sample.
He later admitted on radio to having drunk two pints and a glass of wine earlier that night, but said he felt confident he was not over the legal limit. The TD, who is seeking re-election, also said he would owe the people of his North Kerry constituency a huge apology should he be over the legal limit.
He said yesterday that if he found himself in that position again, he would not get behind the wheel of his car.
"Obviously I have been very worried over the past-two-and a half weeks, I have been very worried. I am very relieved that the result came back negative," he told Newstalk radio station. "I believed it at the time and I said it publicly at the time that I wasn't over the limit. I believe my position at that time has now been vindicated."
I'm not sure his position is 'vindicated', I think he had what I might describe as a lucky escape.
Now as far as I can make out he drank 5 units of alcohol and yet he was barely half the legal limit. But it seems to me the drank rather a lot. Am I wrong? What is the limit? I scampered off to check out what the Road safety dudes had to say on the matter.
"An average of 250 drivers are arrested each week for driving while under the influence of an intoxicant in the Republic of Ireland
According to the Medical Bureau of Road Safety 90% of blood and urine specimens and 81% of breath specimens analysed in 2002 were above the alcohol limit for driving. Of the blood, urine and breath tests certified in 2002 the Medical Bureau of Road Safety found that;
The mean alcohol level in blood was 174 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres (The legal limit being 80 mg/100ml)
The mean alcohol level in urine was 216 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres (the legal limit being 107 mg/100ml)
The mean alcohol level in breath was 57 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres (the legal limit being 35 ug/100ml)
International research indicates that alcohol is a contributory factor in up to 40% of road collisions and in Ireland, it is conservatively estimated that alcohol is the primary cause of 25% of all road collisions and 33% of collisions resulting in fatalities."
Right, but in terms of drinking what does this all mean? How are we, Joe Public, to guage those readings? Is one drink okay? Two? Three?
There must be some sort of scale at work. It is entirely possible that a six foot man has two pints and feels no real effects but his wife, five foot nowt drinks the same and feels tipsy, many factors must be taken into account, length of time since last drink, how much food was consumed, is the drinker on any medication, and so forth.
It is not an exact science.
But you can be very sure that there are men and women all over the country reading the news of Martin Ferris today and thinking, 'okay, so two pints and a glass of wine is fine and dandy. Maybe three pints since he was only at the half way mark.' But it isn't fine, really, what might be fine on one day might be very NOT fine on another.
I don't have the moral high ground here, I often drive home from the paramour's father's home on a sunday having had a glass of wine of two with our Sunday roast. Has my driving been impaired? I don't think so, but what if it was? What if the second or two of reaction time was dulled. Would I be able to live with myself if something happened?
Dunno. But I need to examine my own actions. Maybe I need to say, right, I'm driving a large automobile that will crush the delicate bones of anything that crosses its path so I"d best be giving driving my utmost attention.
And for the sake of all drivers and pedestrians out there I hope nobody reads the Ferris case as an excuse to up the level that they risk drinking.