Think before you drink and drive

You may think that it’s safe for you to drive because you’ve only had a drink or two. The reality is something different.

Not only are you putting your own life in danger, but you are also risking the lives of every other driver and pedestrian on the road. Dr Robyn Holgate, the chief medical officer of ER24 said, “In South Africa, the legal limit is a breath alcohol content of 0.24mg per 1 000ml, or a blood alcohol limit of 0.05g per 100ml. The general rule of thumb is a maximum of one unit of alcohol per hour.”

However, to be safer she suggests staying away from alcohol if you’re driving. “Alcohol distorts a person’s judgement and perceptions as well as slows down reaction time.”

She added that mild to moderate intoxication can impact on a person in a number of ways.

Drinking even one glass of alcohol could lead to mild incoordination, nystagmus – which is fast involuntary movements of the eyes; and ataxia – which is a loss of full control of body movements and slurred speech. A higher level of intoxication may lead to coma, respiratory depression and a drop in blood pressure.

“If you are ever in doubt about the serious consequences of driving while under the influence, volunteer for a shift at your local EMS or police service,” said Dr Holgate.

Saul Behrmann, ER24 Joburg North branch manager, explained that getting the correct information regarding an accident from an intoxicated patient is challenging. “Assessing them is difficult as they repeat questions and comments. Some intoxicated patients want you to assist them and then they change their mind. Being intoxicated makes general assessment and treatment difficult.”

Dr Holgate added, “On average, it takes about one hour for the body to metabolise one unit of alcohol. However, this can vary based on body weight, sex, age, personal metabolic rate, recent food intake, the type and strength of the alcohol and medication taken.”

How do you calculate how many units of alcohol you have consumed?

Multiply the volume of the drink (in millilitres) by its percentage alcohol by volume and divide by 1 000 to determine the number of units of alcohol in the drink you had.

For example:

350 millilitres of beer at 5 percent volume would be calculated 350 x 5/1 000 = 1.75 units.

750 millilitres of wine at 12 percent volume would be calculated 750 x 12/1 000 = 9.0 units.

ER24 can be contacted on 084 124 in case of any medical emergency.


Twitter: @ER24EMS

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