How much should designated drivers drink?

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
August 10, 2017 - 6:34am Updated: August 10, 2017 - 8:02am
Image Credit: B.C.Ambulance Service Facebook

KAMLOOPS — The concerns by restaurateurs over a federal proposal to lower the blood-alcohol limit for impaired drivers from .08 to .05 are a trifle over-stated.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould suggests that lowering the limit would reduce the dangers posed by impaired drivers and has asked the provinces to consider it. She cites a study in Ireland that showed reducing the limit level, combined with obligatory testing, resulted in a 50-per-cent reduction in deadly accidents, and a reduction of about 65 per cent in the number of criminal charges.

She says recent research shows the .08 rule under-estimates the risk of fatal crashes.

A few years ago, B.C. implemented tough new measures, and now has a two-tiered system — if you drive over .05, you’re considered to be affected by alcohol, and if you drive over .08 you’re considered impaired.

There are different penalties for each: a 72-hour driving prohibition for the former, a possible 90-day prohibition and worse for the latter. Presumably, if Wilson-Raybould’s advice is taken, .05 would be considered impaired and subject to the penalties that now apply for .08.

Four years after the new B.C. thresholds came into effect in 2010, the provincial government claimed there had been a 52-per-cent drop in drinking-driving deaths, so restaurateurs can argument that the job is already being done.

But is it, really? The degree of intoxication is more complicated than measuring blood-alcohol content. Different people have different levels of tolerance. Some drive more effectively at certain levels of impairment than others. The whole thing remains something of a crap shoot.

This is where designated drivers come in. While restaurant owners contend that people should have a right to consume at least a small amount of alcohol with their meal during a night out, designated drivers typically abstain.

Designated drivers take the responsibility of getting everyone home safely, and in that role you simply don’t play guessing games about how much booze you can hold and still drive safely.

Whether it’s a couple on a date, or a group of friends out for some fun, or a party at someone’s house, one person needs to be a teetotaler. It’s not too much to ask.

If you’re by yourself, take a cab.

The worries about losing revenue because everybody will stay home or stop drinking are unfounded. If further tightening up on blood-alcohol levels is going to save some more lives, it’s worth doing.

The argument over what’s a “safe” amount of alcohol for drivers will never end but the designated driver solves the problem.

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