There is much official talk about the dangers of drunk driving. Various non-profit, police and government organizations say they are working hard to eradicate the problem. The solution mostly involves punishing those impaired persons after the fact in the belief that stiff penalties are the only way to prevent future incidents.
It was an amusing news article this week that caught the attention of many who likely failed to understand an underlying, important point. Maybe this could have been a part of a Rodney Dangerfield stand-up comedy routine.
The story was that a man was drinking at a bar in the early morning of Wednesday, August 1, 2018. He wanted to prove to his friends that he was not impaired so he allegedly drove to a police station in Mississauga, Ontario and asked police to give him a breath test. It was reported that his blood-alcohol level was 1 1/2 times the legal limit and he was subsequently charged driving with an alcohol level over the .80 limit. Many persons reviewing the story would have found it amusing while moving on to the next, more important matter of life. However there was a deeper message in this.
After drinking several alcoholic beverages does a person have the same capability of reasoning as someone who is sober? Surely not as this is one of the reasons why we want alcohol-impaired individuals off the highway. However, what happens when an alcohol-impaired person comes to the mistaken belief that they are not alcohol impaired? Is that an easy thing to do? Oh, surely not. Or is it? Without the ability to objectively test this hypothesis many persons simply provide their uninformed and biased beliefs on the issue.
In recent months the Costco big box store has been selling a personal, blood-alcohol, reading device, “BACtrack”, for under $40. Recent testing of the device by several volunteers demonstrated how little they understood about impairment and when they had surpassed the legal limit.
One of the surprising facts, but not surprising to officials who constantly deal with impairment, is that alcohol concentration can rise even after a person has stopped drinking. Thus after consuming several alcoholic drinks a person may believe that they are under the limit, and they may, in fact, be under the limit, when they stopped drinking. But as the alcohol becomes absorbed into the blood stream the person’s reasoning becomes impaired while their blood alcohol concentration also rises.
It would seem logical therefore that an instrument that can provide a more objective reporting of a person’s blood alcohol concentration might be helpful, even to the alcohol impaired person, as opposed to depending on that impaired person’s reasoning to make that judgment. As the objective measuring device presumably does not become impaired along with the drinker it can inform that person that their reasoning is impaired, they are wrong and that the device is providing them with an unbiased fact.
Surprisingly, while there are many organizations willing to demonize those who have injured or killed while driving impaired, there is little official effort being made to distribute personal blood-alcohol meters that might prevent impaired driving from getting behind the wheel.