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POLICE ASSOCIATION OF NOVA SCOTIA 101 It's About Control Alcohol-induced impairment is the greatest contributing factor in many motor vehicle fatalities. The basic rule underlying all safe driving is to keep your vehicle under control at all times. Drivers who have consumed alcohol do not have complete control over themselves, and therefore cannot be in control of a vehicle. They are a danger to themselves and others. What Alcohol Does Alcohol is not a stimulant. From the first drink it depresses the central nervous system. The feeling of stimulation is because the higher functions of the brain, including social restraints and judgement, are impaired. When alcohol enters the stomach, it does not have to be digested. It is absorbed through the walls of the stomach and the small intestine into the bloodstream which carries it throughout the body. In the brain, alcohol first depresses the area of higher function. Next it attacks the simple motor functions, reaction time and vision. Balance, co-ordination and sensory perception are the next faculties to be impaired. Concentrated drinking will eventually lead to stupor, coma and even, if continued steadily, death. The most important factors contributing to alcoholic impairment are the amount of alcohol absorbed into the blood and the amount of time allowed for the elimination of this alcohol. The human body works to change alcohol into nourishment and/or to pass it out of the body, but it can only do this at a slow rate. This rate is affected by such other factors as body weight, the quantity and type of food in the stomach and the type of alcoholic beverage consumed. How the Body Handles Alcohol The liver breaks down about 90 per cent of the alcohol a person consumes into usable food. The lungs and kidneys eliminate most of the remainder. But these human body processes need time to remove alcohol from one's system. In terms of usual alcoholic beverages, it takes more than an hour to eliminate each 340 ml bottle of beer or 40 ml drink or 80 ml of unfortified wine. Some people seem to be able to "hold their liquor" better than others, and this excuse is often used by those who do not want to believe that a few drinks can seriously impair driving ability. Because of body weight, fatigue, emotional condition, or a number of other reasons, individuals may show differing effects from drinking the same amount of alcohol. However, they may be equally impaired. Another danger develops when the alcohol starts to "wear off". You can easily convince yourself that you no longer feel the effects and are perfectly sober. This state of mind is a delusion. You are comparing your peak feeling of impairment with the declining impairment that you feel as your body eliminates the alcohol from the blood. But you are not sober. You are only making a dangerous comparison. Fallacies Most of us have tried them at one time or another -- black coffee, cold showers, taking a jog around the block. But we must recognize them for what they are -- ineffective. There is only one thing that can sober a person: time. Drugs and/or Medication While alcohol is the most common cause of driver impairment, there are other substances, such as illegal drugs or medications that can create a safety hazard. Many illegal drugs are extremely dangerous to use, especially when driving. As well, some medications, either prescription or over-the-counter drugs, are known to cause inattention and drowsiness. Take great care not to drive while taking these drugs. Examples of Prescription Drugs That May Affect Driving Skills: • Analgesics - Codeine - Other narcotics • Antidepressants - Tricyclic antidepressants • Antiemetic agents • Antihistamines • Antipsychotic drugs - Haloperidol - Major tranquillizers - Phenothiazines (i.e., chlorpromazine) • Ophthalmic preparations • Sedatives and anxiolytics - Barbiturates - Benzodiazepines • Skeletal muscle relaxants • Other - Antihypertensive drugs - Antineoplastic agents Alcohol and Driving Alcohol is Alcohol, Don’t Drink and Drive Nova Scotia’s road safety social marketing campaign is reaching young drivers with a message about drinking and driving. continued...

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