26 November 2011

Legal limit

Someone at work told me that the Alberta government was thinking of lowering the blood alcohol limit from 0.08 to 0.05. My first reaction was "good" but hers surprised me a bit. She said that it meant that you could no longer go out for dinner with your spouse and share a bottle of wine. She believed it would put bars out of business because people could no longer just go and be sociable drinkers. In her opinion it was the chronic drinkers or the truly drunk that are causing deaths and accidents and to lump 'those' people with the light drinkers was insulting. Target the teens drinkers, she said, target the falling down drunks that don't know when to stop. But don't treat her like a criminal like them just because she had some wine with dinner.

About a day later I saw an opinion letter in the newspaper that shared her point of view. The author of the letter was saying the government is taking away his right to drink a little bit here and there and the focus should be on the heavy drinkers that are causing deaths. How dare the government decide whether he can go out for a few beers with friends after work or not, was his position. Keep after the people that shouldn't be behind the wheel after drinking, but not him because he's only had a few.

Now wait a minute. I have a couple of things to say to all that. First is that you can get a cab if you plan on going out for dinner and sharing a bottle of wine or having some spirits. When I told my coworker this, she responded with 'cabs are too expensive, then you have to choose between the cab fare and the drinks'. Well, no, you don't I'd said. You can have both, just build it into the cost of your date. Just like you would factor in babysitting costs if you have small children. Cabs are available after work too, Author of Letter. You can actually call or even text a cab from the bar and they will get you home. Too expensive still? Take a bus.

Second is that while people with high BAC (blood alcohol concentration) are the primary contributors to fatal car crashes, people with lower BAC comprise a large group of drinking drivers and impairment actually begins as low as 0.02. So even though you may not actually kill another person, your judgement is still compromised and you may not be able to make the necessary course corrections as quickly to avoid a crash.

Third is the idea that the very first part of your brain affected by alcohol is self assessment. So you think you are ok to drive, but are you really? If the part of your brain that lets you know that you are ok is disengaged, can you trust what you tell yourself?

And fourth, I can accept that drinking is a right that is given at the ripe old age of 18 (in Alberta), just like voting. This is a right that cannot be taken away from you by someone else. It is your choice to drink alcohol and it is your right to make that choice. Driving, however, is a privilege, not a right. You must pass an exam that indicates you know the rules of the road and accept responsibility for the operation of this large piece of machinery. Part of that responsibility is not getting behind the wheel if you are under the influence of something that impairs your judgement and ability to properly handle the vehicle. 

So just quit yer bitchin' people, your right to drink does not include the privilege of driving afterwards.  


The Hyperlexian Aspie said...

all good points, well said. i have nothing of import to add, lol!!!


Chantelle said...

Well said! You've made excellent, well-researched points - this reads like a well-written letter to the editor. And of course I completely agree with you :)