Drink Driving & Craft Beer

Posted on May 31, 2010


There is a huge trend of high alcoholic beers in the US and Canada whereby now a 5.5% beer is considered a session beer. Beers now range up to the 32% for the Tactical Penguin and 41%  for sink the bismark from Brewdog James in Scotland. Though these beers are hard to find unless you live in the UK, the beers in the US and Canada are now ranging in the 8-10% range.

SO where does this leave those of us who drive to bars, brewpubs that are located far enough away from accessible and fast transit? There is the ability to have tasting samples, and bring home ‘Growlers’ or bottles of beer sometimes but driving and drinking are not something that is spoken about a lot in the in the craft community.

The question I have is what does the legal limit of .08% feel like? as opposed to .05% ? how come there are not more testing kits, or gadgets available from liquor stores or bars?  As I’m against drink driving like everyone else but have no choice but to drive sometimes.

SO What does 0.05 or .08 % mean in layman terms?

Blood-alcohol levels between 50 and 100 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood.  The legal limit is 80 milligrams in Canada & US, with 50 milligrams in Australia.

Can you refuse to take the breathalyzer test?

Simply put – NO. Remember that the courts have heard every excuse as to why you cannot blow into a bag for 8-10 seconds. It’s impossible to win in court if you refuse to blow.

Key Facts that I didn’t know

These points from the Canadian Bar Association.The key advice is to seek appropriate legal advice.

1. Whether you’re driving the car, or sleeping in the car you can be tested by the Police as you are in possession of the motor vehicle.

2. You do not need to tell police how much you drank, or do balancing tests.

3. If taken to Police station for testing, ask to speak to an attorney. Because you are ‘legally held’  you are able to speak in private to a lawyer before any further tests are conducted. (Canadian Law). US State law may have similar rules/legal system. As little as 30 minutes could be enough to reduce your blood alcohol readings.

4. If you blow over .08% or 80 milligrams of alcohol in your blood you will be charged with impaired driving. The first offense carries a 90 day driving ban and criminal conviction.

5. Note Above Point-  The Superintendent of Motor Vehicles must cancel your suspended license conviction  if you were not .08% within 3 hours of driving. I have heard that you need to be .10 % for prosecution to occur due to results needing to be above .08 to stand up in court.

What does all this mean?

Look drink driving kills there is no question that is the case but there is a level of onus not just on people who hang out in strange beer bars like myself, but also on the bars, motor vehicle bodies to increase the level of knowledge as to what levels are. Increasing hand held devices like these are one area that governments can help improve driver knowledge of alcohol tolerances.

Organisations like MADD are the group made up of parents of people killed or injured by drink drivers.Though seeming to be positive, it has struck me over the years to be very militant in their approach to alcohol and driving. I don’t subscribe to any of their extreme views against alcohol.

An interesting graphic on Alcohol / Blood tolerances.  thanks to the phlebotomist for this image.

Paying a $1000 fine or being suspended for 90 days nothing compared to injuring or killing a child. But to avoid this, there needs to be re-education in terms of what tolerances are. In Australia there are machines in bars that require a $1 coin to get a reading. Though no readings are exact, it provides an idea as to someones intoxication.

Personally I’m not going to stop drinking high strength craft beers, but I would like to know even when I’m not driving what I’m like at 0.08%. Especially so i can asses if I’m able to drive on those nights when I have felt fine leaving the bar, but half way back to the hotel, or home I realize I’m probably breaking the law.  Its easy to say take a cab or transit, but when you go to strange bars and brewpubs like I do, sometimes in the middle of a vacant industrial area, or a bad part of a city without accessible transit driving is the only option.

One of the key changes I have made in my drinking habits has been to order the smallest sizes of beers such as 10, 12, 14 oz glasses. I always order water and often need reminding about eating. With so many beers to choose from in some of the great bars I go to, its hard to justify having a full pint of something, especially when likely drinking 6-8 glasses in a night.

Please note I’m not a lawyer, nor advocate for drinking driving. This article is meant to help open the discussion on HIGH alcohol beers and the drink driving issue.

Posted in: Detox - Health