A total of 134 drink-driving incidents resulting in human deaths and injuries were recorded in 2019, in which 10 people died and 160 people were injured. In the first five months of this year 51 such incidents have occurred, injuring 59 and resulting in the deaths of eight people.
People often drink alcohol in the company of others, which means that before sitting in the driver’s seat somebody has had the opportunity to stop them doing so. When going to a party with friends, you should think beforehand about how you can avoid someone who has been drinking getting behind the wheel.
More than 900,000 breath tests were conducted in 2019. A blood alcohol reading was returned by 7149 drivers, of whom 2657 were found to be over the legal limit. Over the years there has been no significant improvement in driver awareness of the effects of alcohol or how it breaks down in the body. People remain unaware how much of an impact a single shot of vodka has on their blood alcohol reading and that it takes several hours to regain complete sobriety.
There are three important things which everyone should know about alcohol and driving:
- People consistently underestimate the amount of alcohol they have consumed and the amount of time that alcohol remains in the body. If you drank the night before and it went straight to your head, it doesn’t pay to assume that just because you feel alright in the morning that you are okay to drive. Take a breath test before getting behind the wheel.
- There is no way of getting alcohol out of your system any quicker than it will naturally work its way out of you. Commonly held beliefs that you can sleep it off, sweat it out in a sauna or by exercising, counteract it with energy drinks or coffee or somehow shock it out of your system under a cold shower are myths. Just 5% of the alcohol we consume is expelled in our sweat and urine; the lion’s share of the hard work is done by our livers. Alcohol causes dehydration, which can bring on nausea or vomiting, cramps, fatigue and headaches. This is why physical activity is no help, because the only thing which will completely sober you up is time.
- People underestimate how much of an effect light alcohol has on their blood alcohol reading. Beer and cider are not soft drinks. For example, 0.5 litres of beer with 5% alcohol content contains 20 grams of pure alcohol, compared to the 13 grams of pure alcohol in a 40 cl shot of vodka. This amount of pure alcohol will give a man weighing 85 kg a blood alcohol reading of 0.33‰ (parts per thousand) and a woman weighing 65 kg a reading of 0.5‰.
Drinking leaves many people thinking that nothing bad will happen to them, and they drive at high speeds and without wearing a seat belt. These three factors combined lead to a much higher probability of accidents with tragic consequences.
If you are unable to stop someone who has been drinking from getting behind the wheel, ask the police to step in by calling 112. Rather than making you a bad person, this decision could prevent serious accidents that could change the lives of the person you know and the other people involved forever. More than 10,000 calls were made to the police in 2019 to inform them of drunk drivers.
The Estonian Road Administration’s safety campaign “Don’t Let Your People Drive When Drunk!” will run from today through to 5 July. It is designed to inform the public that they can and should do their best to stop people who have been drinking from getting behind the wheel.