Friday, May 11, 2007

Drink driving and the limit.

This story is from to day's independent.

"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.

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50 Comments:

Blogger aquaasho said...

I've been breathalyzed 3 times recently at those random checkpoints (I don't drink so luckily not an issue). So there's lots of these checkpoints about. A colleague of mine was breathalyzed after at least 3 drinks, and it came up as ZERO on the machine? I don't geddit?

12:43 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

Me neither, there was someone on the radio earlier saying that the self check kits-to see if you are over the limit or not- are very risky, one woman drank a whole bottle of wine and she came up under the limit. If I had drunk an entire bottle of wine I would definitely be suffering symptoms and by that I mean drunk.

12:48 p.m.  
Blogger Glinda the good witch said...

Hmm, having worked in an A and E where we had an extremely accurate breathalyzer (as accurate as the blood alcohol) I wonder have de Guards bought a dodgy lot of them? to save money like....
Totally agree with your point about Ferris. It comes across as if he is saying two pints and a glass of wine is fine, lads and ladies. Not on. I think the alcohol limit should be reduced to about half its current level - where 5 units of alcohol is deemed legally ok to drive, just essentially proves that the legal limit is too high. Oh and I like a drink myself by the way. Oh and I have got behind the wheel in my young and crazy days with probably an illegal limit of blood in my alcohol stream... which would have started off as an "ah sure I'll only have the one or two". A tolerance closer to zero would stop that kind of thing, I think. By the way does anyone remember the drink driving campaign which went "If you drive...two will do". V Irish. Now Ferris could start his own campaign, "two and a glass of wine? You're fine"

1:39 p.m.  
Blogger Caro said...

I find it really hard to believe he was only at half the limit after two pints and a glass of wine. I definitely wouldn't chance driving with that much. You think your reactions aren't affected but try touch-typing after a few drinks when you don't feel at all drunk, tis amazing how much your motor skills are impaired without you even noticing...

2:36 p.m.  
Blogger Andraste said...

Of course, anything that cuts down your reaction time is dangerous, but I think everyone metabolizes alcohol differently. Assigning percentage numbers seems arbirtrary to me, but I guess you have to start somewhere. A person's reactions to X number of drinks is going to be different depending on whether they've eaten, how rested they are, how stressed they are, etc. The legal limit here is equal to say...the Spouse and I sharing a bottle of wine with dinner - which isn't very high. But where someone like himself would be unimpaired, I would be maybe a bit...'relaxed,' and even if not 'dangerous' per se, we don't know what my reaction time would be to something or someone darting out in front of me or some other idiot doing something stupid in the next lane. And of course it's because women metabolize alcohol more slowly than men, which sucks. And it would be dangerous to impose a different limit for men and women...

I don't know. I am very careful and prefer not to break the law, but sometimes I'll admit I've driven when I've had a couple of drinks. Never absolutely DRUNK, but I don't honestly know what a breathalyzer would have said.

Having said all that, a couple of pints and a glass of wine seems pretty harmless to me - given the person in question is male. I would have been impaired, but a male, who weighs 100 pounds more than I do? Yeah, probably not drunk.

2:40 p.m.  
Blogger fatmammycat said...

I'm sure he wasn't drunk, just I'm surprised he wasn't over the limit, especially as the limit is quite low here.

3:59 p.m.  
Blogger Mairéad said...

I'm surprised he wasn't over the limit too. I've never believed fellas at weddings who say they'll be fine "after that big feed"!!!! Were the results tampered with I wonder??? Word around here (Cork - Kerry border) is that FF set him up! He takes loads of their votes back there. How ironic then if SF got him off? He'll be even more popular now - "sure it could happen to any one of us" man-of-the-people-type-thing.
I think you're right that many, many people will review their thinking now and believe that 2 pints and a glass of wine is ok. Not good progress.

5:06 p.m.  
Blogger Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

I'd have thought he'd be over the limit on that too.

Over here all the bars have parking lots and you can't walk anywhere so the system is set up for failure a lot more than in Ireland or the UK where pavements are plentiful and walking and public transport are more common; taxis are easy to get even in wee towns; we live a lot closer together; and pubs are often within walking distance.

The Upper Midwest is still all gung-ho about drink-driving with men actually bragging about their DWI arrests. California is a lot better apart from dumb kids and old die-hards. But people still do a fair job of designating a driver and all that. In the UK and Ireland, with taxis far more readily available than in the US (outside the East coast cities that is) there really is no good reason for driving drunk.

5:56 p.m.  
Blogger Manuel said...

I hate politicians, slimey teflon coated cunts.

11:13 p.m.  
Blogger valrossie said...

It’s just made it into the flickr blog, flickr member, Colleenm has put together a fantastic collection of scans of images taken around Ireland during a trip in 1972. Of particular interest to readers of this blog would be the set of images in and around County Dublin. It’s amazing to see just how much the city has changed since then, and even more so just how much the people have changed as well. This is a fantastic collection that’s well, well worth checking out when you have a spare moment.
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4:58 p.m.  
Blogger Aries said...

It can be anything when we drunk and drive.I have faced this situation.I have met with an accident and it was luck that i am still alive.I got only injured in my leg or else it would have been anything.Since then i have trying to appeal people on various forum and communities that DUI is dangerous for life.

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