Drinking, driving, making the right choice

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Rule number 3: What does the law say?

The law is very clear: the legal drinking limit, i.e. your blood alcohol limit, varies according to the type of licence you have.

Type of licence Legal limit of alcohol consumption to be able to drive
Learner’s zero (0)
Probationary zero (0)
Driver – under age 22 zero (0)
Driver’s “Point zero eight” (.08)

Test your knowledge of the law

True or false? If you are pulled over for impaired driving, your licence will be suspended immediately if it is a repeat offense.

FALSE. If you are found to be driving while impaired, your licence will be suspended immediately for 90 days, regardless of whether it’s a repeat offense or not.

True or false? If you are convicted on a first offence, you will have to pay a significant fine but you get to keep your driver's licence.

FALSE. If you are convicted on a first offence, you have to pay a significant fine and your driver’s licence is automatically cancelled for one year.

In addition, first offenders must submit to a mandatory summary assessment of their behaviour, administered in a special centre, to determine whether their drinking habits are compromising their ability to drive safely. If the assessment is unfavourable, they must undergo a comprehensive assessment.

True or false? If you are driving with a learner's licence or probationary license, or you are under age 22 with any type of licence, and are found to have even the slightest amount of alcohol in your blood, your licence will be suspended for 90 days.

TRUE. If you are driving with a learner’s licence or probationary license and are found to have even the slightest amount of alcohol in your blood:

  • Four (4) demerit points will be entered on your driving record.
  • You will have to pay between $438 and $865, including the fine plus other fees and contributions.
  • If convicted of driving while impaired, you will be treated like all other drivers and your driver’s licence will be cancelled automatically for one year.
True or false? legal limit applies to all drivers, but there are a few exceptions.

FALSE. The legal limit applies to all drivers, no matter why they were drinking. Police officers will not give you a break even if you think you had a good reason to celebrate, e.g. a birthday, a promotion, a new job or a wedding.

Conclusion: Whatever the circumstances, if you have a learner’s licence or probationary license, or if you are under age 22, no matter what type of licence you have, you mustn’t drink at all if you plan to drive. If you have a regular driver’s licence and are over 21 years of age, it’s better not to drink if you plan to drive, or if you do, to drink moderately.

Should you drive?

How can you tell if someone has drunk too much to drive?

It’s pretty easy to tell when people have had too much to drink. Some signs are physical:

  • Their eyes look irritated and bloodshot
  • Their breathing is rapid
  • They may be perspiring heavily

Other changes are behavioural. People who have drunk too much:

  • Speak louder and more quickly
  • Don’t enunciate clearly
  • Have trouble standing up and walking a straight line
  • Stagger or stumble easily
  • Move more slowly
  • Seem distracted
  • Respond more slowly to questions
  • May be drowsy or fall asleep

Alcohol can also make people sadder, more aggressive or noisier. And it can cause them to break into uncontrollable laughter that has nothing to do with having fun!

What should you do?

If someone has drunk too much, you should offer help, as necessary by doing any or all of the following:

  • Try to keep the person from driving
  • Offer a lift home
  • Offer any other safe solution

How does someone who has drunk too much behave behind the wheel?

Someone whose blood alcohol content is above the legal limit will have increasing difficulty with perception, motor coordination and concentration, which impairs the ability to drive safely.

When people are intoxicated their peripheral vision is reduced, they don’t hear as well and their ability to estimate distances is diminished. Their reflexes slow down and they may have trouble reacting appropriately to an obstacle in the road.

After a few drinks, people’s faculties are impaired and their personality changes. Without realizing it, they are likely to underestimate risk.

And yet, everyone knows that driving requires your full attention. You must be in full possession of your faculties before you get behind the wheel or you will pose a danger to yourself and others on the road. It takes good judgement, quick reflexes, the ability to anticipate events and excellent coordination to drive safely and responsibly.

What should you do?

If you have had one or a few too many, hand your keys–and your life–to someone who is in full control and able to drive safely.

How does a responsible driver behave?

A responsible driver knows that someone who has drunk too much should never drive, even if that person feels in full control.

The responsible driver knows that someone who has had one too many can’t make an objective self-assessment. In fact, all drivers who drink may be a danger to themselves and others, even if sometimes their blood alcohol content is below the legal limit.

What should you do?

Friends, relatives, co-workers or whoever else is around should caution a drunk person who is about to drive and offer safe alternatives. Each of us bears a social and moral responsibility when it comes to driving while impaired.

Drunk driving is everyone’s business!

What’s the responsible way to party?

There are a number of options. When you go out with friends, or even as a couple, you can name a designated driver who agrees not to drink alcohol. Over time, you take turns so that everyone gets a chance to party as they like.

Another solution is to share a taxi or take public transit, which doesn’t cost much and minimizes risk. During the holiday season in December, you can contact Opération Nez rouge, an organization that provides volunteer drivers to take you home, no questions asked.

People who host parties can help, too, by providing non-alcoholic drinks, such as juice, sparkling water or fruit punch as options for everyone. Hosts should stop serving alcohol at least one hour before guests are expected to leave, and they should encourage people to stop drinking alcohol in anticipation of the return home.

What should you do?

If any of your guests appears drunk, everyone should be concerned. Don’t hesitate to intervene to prevent someone from driving. Offer a bed for the night or help the person find a place nearby to stay. If the person insists on going home, have someone else do the driving.

Alcohol can often surprise you with its impact. You don’t want to experience that behind the wheel!

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