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Drink and drug driving

NEVER drive when under the influence of drugs or alcohol


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health


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The law is clear: it's illegal to drive under the influence of an intoxicant. That can mean alcohol or drugs (legal and illegal) and a cocktail of the two is extremely dangerous.

  • Remember that the Gardaí have the power to breathalyse any driver randomly stopped at an alcohol checkpoint. They also have the power to ask drivers to perform a series of roadside coordination and balance tests, including finger to nose test, standing on one leg and walking a straight line.
  • If a driver is involved in a crash, the Gardai now have the power to take a blood sample from the driver, to test for drugs. If the driver refuses to give the sample, this is considered an offence, and will result in penalties, including a driving ban.
  • It takes an hour for the effects of half a pint (or a glass of wine) to wear off. Even then it's safer to avoid drinking.
  • If you've been drinking all night and only had a few hours of sleep then you'll still be over the alcohol limit. Don't drive after a big night out.
  • Irish men in their twenties are more likely to drive when over the alcohol limit than other drivers. Don't try to be macho and don't give into peer pressure: if there's a chance that you're going to drink or take drugs then leave the car keys at home.
  • If you are convicted of driving over the alcohol limit you will lose your license and could end up with a heavy fine or jail sentence.
  • Don't mix medication or illegal drugs with drink: it can be a deadly cocktail.
  • Don't get into a car with anyone who has been drinking and if possible stop them from driving.

What happens when you drink alcohol and drive?

Alcohol affects your judgement, vision, co-ordination and reaction time.

When driving this can mean that:

  • You are slow to react in emergencies.

  • You drive too fast or too slow.
  • You run over curbs.
  • You wobble or weave across the road.
  • You don't signal or don't use the lights.
  • You don't stop at red lights or stop signs.
  • You pass other vehicles unsafely.

With just a small amount of alcohol (20mg-50mg) in your body

You aren't able to properly judge the distance and speed of oncoming vehicles. You might also take greater risks such as dangerous overtaking or driving too close to other cars.

At the legal alcohol limit or over (50mg-plus) in your body

Your vision is affected and you'll be slow to react at red lights and emergency stops. You are more likely to speed and to have problems judging distances at bends. Motorcyclists will have problems driving in a straight line. You're going to overestimate your own ability.

If you think you might be drinking, leave the car keys at home.

What happens when you take drugs and drive?

Drugs affect your behaviour, judgement and mind set.

When driving this can mean that:

  • You are slow to react in emergencies.
  • You don't concentrate enough on driving.
  • You feel sleepy or exhausted.
  • Your thinking is confused.
  • You have a distorted perception of things or hallucinations: you might be paranoid about other drivers, have panic attacks or think you are able to do dangerous manoeuvres.
  • You become over confident and take unnecessary risks.
  • Your vision is blurred so you can't see properly.
  • Your co-ordination is affected.
  • You might become ill, dizzy, have cramps or the shakes.

Don't get into a car with anyone who has taken drugs and if possible stop them from driving.

Prescription and over the counter drugs

Some medicines will affect your mental alertness or co-ordination and this means it's not safe to drive after taking them. If you drink while using medication there's even more risk. Make sure to read the medication label carefully and ask your doctor or chemist if this drug will affect your driving.

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Published February 26th, 2013
Last updated April 3rd, 2017
Tags alcohol drink drugs
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.

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