What happens to your body when you drink. And why you shouldn’t drive after that.

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We’ve all heard that drinking and driving is a bad idea. But have you ever wondered exactly what happens to your body after you’ve had a few drinks?

What happens to your body when you drink. And why you shouldn’t drive after that.

Road accidents and alcohol

As far as statistics go, here’s one to be particularly ashamed of – according to WHO, with 1,30,000 deaths annually, India is the world leader in road accidents.

It’s unclear how many of these are caused by drunken driving. But one thing is obvious - one of the easiest ways to reduce the number of road accidents is to avoid driving while under the influence of alcohol.

The irony is that while the consumption of alcohol is accepted and prevalent in many cultures around the world, the ability to consume it responsibly can be highly uncommon. And this unfortunately leads led to a high rate of accidents that involve driving under the influence of alcohol.

Even when sober, driving calls for a fair degree of alertness and quick response motor skills. Driving while under the influence of alcohol then becomes of the worst decisions you could make.

How drunk was he?

Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is a commonly used measure to judge a person’s level of alcoholic inebriation. The amount of alcohol in your body reflects in our breath and urine. Instruments like ‘breathalysers’ are adopted and used by authorities to verify an individual’s BAC. Most countries have a permissible limit above which an individual’s driving ability is considered impaired and is legally conceived to be a road risk.

Certain physiological reactions take place at defined BAC levels. This helps understand the ramifications of alcohol on our ability to drive. Certain driving skills face higher degrees of impairment for a given BAC.

BAC of 0.030 – 0.059

Driving involves briefly focusing on objects and tracking them. This ability is based on eye movement and is affected at BAC starting at 00.03 to 00.05.

Steering the car is influenced by a person’s hand-eye coordination. This is affected at BAC 00.02.

Alcohol interferes with the brain’s information processing skills rendering low levels of concentration and unawareness of the local environment. Alcohol drives people to prefer one activity to another, which doesn’t usually work in favour of a person’s driving ability. Sometimes, when driving under the influence of alcohol, drivers tend to concentrate more on steering the vehicle than local surroundings.

BAC of 0.06 – 0.19

As your blood alcohol levels go higher, there is a reduction in your reasoning, depth perception and peripheral vision. Moreover, your reaction time gets affected.

BAC of 0.21 and above

Higher BAC (00.21 to 00.29) causes loss of muscle control and impaired sensations rendering most people to experience a “drunken stupor”.

BAC over 0.30 impacts breathing and heart rate. Anyone experiencing these levels is susceptible to becoming unconscious, going into a coma, and even death.

The final word

Alcohol consumption over a certain limit leads to impairment of necessary faculties to drive a vehicle safely.  If you are going to drink and need to travel, you could avoid risks associated with drinking and driving by using alternate means like public transportation, taxis, assigning designated drivers or by making prior arrangements to stay overnight or calling someone to pick you up. These might imply stepping outside your comfort zone and making a little extra effort, but isn’t it better to be safe than sorry?

Excessive intake of alcohol can lead to alcoholism. Find out more about the addiction. 

Photograph via sxc.hu

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