Mental state linked to blood alcohol level

The New Straits Times, June 19,1995

Q: I understand that the law on drunken driving will be enforced begining July 1 in the Klang Valley are and a blood alcohol level of  80mg/100ml has been chosen as the cu-off point. What is the significance of this value?

A: The mental state of an intoxicated motorist correlates with the blood alcohol level. This depends on among others the concentration and volume of alcohol consumed, and the body weight of the consumer.

For example, the usual concentration of alcohol in beer is 3-5 per cent and wine 10-50 per cent.

Thus, for a 70kg driver, the 'usual' 30ml drink of 80-proof alcohol (40 per cent of alcohol by volume), will raise the blood alcohol by 25mg/100ml.

Approximately three drinks are enough to make a person reach the statutory limit for intoxication.

At this blood alcohol level, a person will normally suffer from an impaired judgment of distances, impaired perception of traffic lights, road works, braking and third lights, and an increased reaction time to emergencies.

The motorist also tends to drive faster and in a reckless manner, with little or no awareness of the peripheral areas. Situation which are easily avoidable may lead to severe accidents when the drivers involved are under the influence of alcohol.

However, a level below 80mg/100ml does not guarantee that motorists are safe drivers, because even at a level of 20mg/100ml some sensitive drinkers may show symptoms of impaired concentration and mild motor incoordination.

Factors like fatigue, illness, stress and other drugs, especially those which depress the brain, may potentiate the effect of alcohol. So the thing to remember is, if you are driving, then do not drink.

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