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Thursday, September 19, 2019
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From one drink to legally impaired

Photo: The table at J.D. Fitzgeralds shows off some of the drinks the ‘testers’ had to show the effects of alcohol on different people./Adam Reaburn


Well, what a surprise last night turned out to be and not in a good way. I usually thought I was fine after two, three, sometimes even four drinks. However Wednesday evening, I was proven wrong. I can honestly count on both my hands how many times I’ve ever had one or two beers and driven home and normally I won’t drive at all, even if I feel fine. However, I apparently have a fairly high alcohol tolerance and this makes me dangerous.

I am the type of drinker that the police fear: the one who has definitely had too much to drink but still thinks she’s fine. Wednesday’s impairment test with four subjects -with myself, Brent Hodson, Russell Eggleston and Lori Ackerman – which aired on Moose FM, gave me a wake-up call. After one drink – in my case a beer – I blew at 0.037, coming close to the 0.050 warn range set out in B.C.’s impaired driving law.

I honestly felt fine even after drink number three, which is scary since by that point I was already over the legal limit, registering 0.058 BAC – and was probably will climbing. At this point, however, if I had driven and been stopped, I would have received a warning. The breathalyzers used by the Fort St. John RCMP officers were calibrated to give a warn if someone has between a BAC of 0.060 and a 0.099, but in reality, anything over 0.050 receives a warn.

Many people think the limits where someone is considered impaired have decreased, but in fact, it’s just the penalties under the same limits that have become harsher. Under the new law, a warn (BAC 0.050 to 0.080) comes with an automatic three-day driving ban, a $200 fine, a possible three-day vehicle impoundment (min. $150) and a $250 drivers licence reinstatement fee. This could mean that for someone’s first offence, the person could end up paying at least $600.

After a total of six drinks and two plates of food, my BAC registered at 0.061. Constable Tim Palmert says the food probably helped absorb some of the alcohol which explains the decrease in the breathalyzer reading between drinks four, five and six. Yet, even though I was still feeling fine after drink #4, Constable Palmert easily pointed out various things that showed I was impaired. He told me my speech was slurring, my cheeks were flushed, I was talking considerably louder than normal and I was having trouble walking.

There are several things that can contribute to someone’s BAC. Certain factors depend on the person’s weight and metabolism, others on what the person has eaten – and how much – throughout the day and, furthermore, how often he or she exercises.

For myself, at 5’8”, I currently weigh approximately 157lbs. I play recreational soccer twice a week, but it’s been over for the holiday season for just over a week. I had a decent sized breakfast around 7 a.m. and didn’t have anything else to eat until 12:30 p.m.

When the test began just after 3 p.m., I started off drinking a pint of Keiths in about 15 minutes and then waited 15 min before taking a breathalyzer. This process was the same for each of us who participated. The drinks we were given all had the equivalent of one ounce of alcohol. My drinks included a keiths, a rum and coke, a cosmopolitan and three Malibu and pineapple juices.

In between drinks one and two, I had a plate of bruschetta and I also had poutine in between drinks four and five.

Not everyone is as lucky as I was to learn what it can take to make me legally impaired, but the results were certainly surprising.

From the test, I have learnt a couple valuable lessons. One is that everyone really is different. Each of us who participated had different body types and we each ended up with very different results. Another is I’ve determined that no matter how I feel, if I have more than one drink, my car is staying where it is for the night.

The full results from the test can be viewed below. Russell was the only other person who ate. He had food between drinks one and two.

Name       Drink 1    Drink 2   Drink 3   Drink 4    Drink 5    Drink 6
Brent        0.014         0.030      0.043        0.067      0.091        0.113
Kim          0.037         0.044      0.058        0.066       0.062       0.061
Lori          0.004         0.000      0.006        0.011       0.010       0.011
Russell     0.010        0.012      0.018        0.020       0.012       0.013

A full list of penalties if someone is caught driving impaired can be found here.

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