The end of the year signals some of the best things in life; backyard barbies, time with family and friends, and putting up your feet after a year of hard work. For many people alcohol plays a role in the festive celebrations, and in moderation that's not an issue. Unfortunately, the way it affects our bodies can cause problems in certain situations involving wheels. There's many things you wouldn't want to mix your alcohol with, and driving is one of them. But I think everyone can agree that's easier said than done.
When everyone else is drinking, it's easy to get caught up in the mood and forget that you're meant to be driving. And even if you do forgo the champagne glasses, you can be caught out by alcohol hiding in season favourites like plum pudding and eggnog.
Here are some tips to keep yourself and others safe on the road during the busy festive season:
1: Plan ahead
This means figuring out whether you're going be drinking or not. If you do want to drink, that's fine, just make sure you have a way to get home safely which doesn't involve getting behind the wheel. Designate a responsible driver and keep them insight. Make sure you have their number and your phone is charged, so that you can contact them at any time to ask for a lift.
2: Be realistic.Think about your track record of refusing alcohol at gatherings. Unless you're 100% confident in your ability to stay away from the spirits, you should make backup plans, just in case. Get the contact details of a friend who doesn't drink, download a rideshare app, or ask your host in advance if you're okay to stay over until sober. If you do decide last minute that you'll have a drink after all, do your future self a favour and hand your car keys over to someone responsible. If you get through event without drinking alcohol, that's great news; you get to drive your own car home. If not you'll at least have the peace of mind knowing that you already have a course of action which won't cause any extra danger to yourself or others on the road.
3: Be wary of alcohol hidden in food. Some puddings you buy in the supermarket are boozy to say the least, containing the same amount of alcohol as a single pub measure of spirits in every 100 grams. Fruity punches can also hide unexpected amounts of alcohol. Not to mention eggnog and even the icing on cupcakes can be spiked with brandy. Although the amounts might be small, this can all get problematic if you have an interlock condition on your licence. You are expected to drive with a BAC of 0, and all of these foods can show up on an interlock or a police roadside test. If you are planning on driving, make sure that you have declared that you're the designated driver. If you're worried about revealing that you are on an interlock license with a zero alcohol restriction, you can always tell people that you already had a drink before arriving, or that you're taking a cold and flu medication which can't be mixed with alcohol.
4: Don't underestimate the effects of alcohol
Alcohol affects many skills which are important for driving, such as reaction time, visual tracking and alertness, all of which increase your risk of accident. Even worse, its effects can last for much longer than you expect. It's pretty common for BAC to still be at unsafe levels the morning after a night out. And just because your BAC has recovered quickly in the past, doesn't mean that will be the case next time. There are a bunch of environmental influences which can affect how soon your body recovers. Not to mention that as you get older your body can't process alcohol as well as before, meaning that your BAC rises faster and recovers slower. Don't just assume that you're sober enough to drive, chances are you're not.
It might seem like an inconvenience at the time, but making sure that you are responsible when drinking can save lives. Last year the Christmas period was one of the deadliest on record, with over 1000 major crashes in NSW alone. Everybody needs to do their part to make roads safe over the holiday period.