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Driving the day after the night before

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Driving the day after the night before

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With January being dry for many of us after the excesses of Christmas and New Year, you may be tempted to have a beer or two as usual after work or an extra glass of wine with friends. As long as you get a ride home, there’s nothing wrong with drinking in moderation. But what about the next day?

It is very easy to concentrate on not drinking and driving at the time and not after the fact. Most Canadians are now way past drink driving and would never dream of doing it. With designated drivers, cabs and Uber, there really is no excuse. What about driving the next morning? How do things stand then?

What you need to know about the morning after
Depending on where you live, the hours between 6am and midday are the most profitable time for police using breathalyzers. While some of these will include daytime drinkers, many will be suffering the effects of the night before. So what do you need to know?

Your liver can process one unit of alcohol per hour if you are a typical healthy adult. Any conditions or health complications can slow that process so you need to be aware of your general health. If you’re out until 1am drinking and then plan to drive to work the next morning at 8am, in theory your body has had 7 hours to process the last units of alcohol you ingested.

So what’s a unit?
A unit of alcohol differs depending on the drink. For example, six pints of normal strength beer or six small 175ml glasses of wine are both 14 units. There are around 2.1 units in a small glass of wine with 12% alcohol content and 10 units in a bottle. One pint of beer (3% alcohol) is around 2 units. A single measure of spirits (40% alcohol) is one unit.

If you drink your beer by the bottle, you can use math to work it out. Use strength (ABV) x volume (ml) ÷ 1,000 = units. So a bottle of beer at 568ml at 5.2% alcohol would be approximately 2.95 units. A 440ml beer at 5.5% alcohol would be 2 units.

Sleeping it off
Sleep does not boost alcohol metabolization. The rate remains at one unit per hour, every hour for a healthy person. So the calculation remains. If you drink a lot the night before and have a good night’s sleep, you may still be over the limit the next morning.

Say you have a bottle of wine to yourself the night before. That bottle contains 10 units. You finish it at midnight and plan to drive to work at 7am. Theoretically your body has had 7 hours to metabolize the alcohol which means you will be driving with three units still in your bloodstream.

This article is not designed to scare you. It is designed to let you know that a good night’s sleep after a night out may not be enough to save your licence or drive safely. Now you can make an informed decision about how you drink during an evening or travel to work the next day.

Stay safe out there!

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