Why Do We Drink and Drive?

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Disclaimer – this article is written as if a drunk driver was answering the questions and attempts to find flaws in the answers so as to prevent people from dinking and driving. None of the answers are based on actual events or decisions made by the author.


Why Do We Drink and Drive?

What is it with drinking and driving? Let’s face it, we have all done it and we all would consider doing it again. Every year we hear millions of horrific stories about drunk driving related accidents, but yet we still drink and drive. Why is this so?

Sitting here on an average Monday afternoon it crossed my mind and I thought that writing an article about it might help me uncover a few answers to this inconceivable conundrum.

Let me share a recent tale with you. Before I begin this tale, I must mention that I have an


fitted into my vehicle (as my job entails getting them into the market place) so drinking and driving for me isn’t a viable option, as my vehicle will literally not start.

Last night I went to a friend’s birthday in the Joburg CBD, which isn’t close to my house. As I have an ALCOLOCK™ fitted in my vehicle and wasn’t keen to catch a cab home, I decided to take it slowly on the drinking front and had 3 beers over the space of 5 hours. But just as I was about to leave a very friendly chap came to me and handed me a crisp Castle Lite – he did this as a friendly gesture, almost as if to say “I can see that we are both ‘lurking’, so let’s share a beer and remove some of the awkwardness from our situation”. I was now in a proper predicament – do I accept the beer and drink it and then spend an hour sitting in my car waiting for the alcohol to pass through my system, or do I say that I unfortunately can’t accept his gesture and give the beer back to him? It’s trickier than you might think – and I can’t help but feel that this tricky situation is a common event in many bars, pubs and restaurants around the world.

To not be perceived as rude, I took the beer and drank a bit of it and poured the rest into an old cup when he wasn’t looking.  But I was now in the uncertain stage of ‘will I or will I not pass my vehicles breathalyser test’.

And this is when it hit me – I have an ALCOLOCK™ in my car, and it is this little device that is now forcing me to make the right calls. Without the ALCOLOCK™ in my car I may have thought that I’m more than likely ok and in the unlikely event of being pulled over in a roadblock that I’d probably pass the breath test. Or I may have thought (like most of the population) it’s a Sunday night and cops don’t roadblock on Sundays, and I would have had a few more beers, driven home over the limit and not given it too much thought.

It is this thinking (or lack thereof) that opens up a whole lot of questions in my mind. What does ‘I feel ok’ mean? Why is it ok to drink and drive if there is no chance of being caught? What is stopping you from getting a cab (or Goodfella’s type pick-up)? Why is drinking and driving ok if you aren’t travelling far?

Let’s be honest, these are probably the four most pertinent questions one could ask about drinking and driving.

So I feel that these four questions need to be answered – by a real human and not a computer or a person with unrealistic views on how the world works. And as I am a real human, and feel like I have some realistic views on how the world works, I’ll give it a go – and I will do it as honestly as possible. Before I do, let me just say that an answer isn’t always a solution, but it should at least make you question your decisions. Because at the end of the day, we are the decisions we make.

What does ‘I feel ok’ mean?

I guess ‘ok’ is the level at which you don’t feel impaired, or feel like you will be able to handle a vehicle without too much difficulty. This varies for different people. Some people can drink 20 beers and feel unaffected, whereas others can have 2 sips and feel tipsy. It is however an unquantifiable measure and as such can’t be backed up by anything as no one else can feel how you feel when you say that you are ‘ok’.

I pointed out in an earlier post just what it takes to be over the limit. It’s not rocket science, if you drink more than that then you shouldn’t drive. Maybe when the authorities get a device that measure ‘ok-ness’ then we can use that measure, but until then just follow the guidelines. It is, after all, your life on the line, and potentially the lives of all other road users. It shouldn’t be a hard decision to make.

I would assume that the ‘ok’ measure has led to pretty much every alcohol related road accident and subsequent casualty/fatality the world has ever seen.

Why is it ok to drink and drive if there is no chance of being caught?

I feel that this answer is directly linked to the ‘ok’ measure. The cops can’t tell if I am ‘ok’ or not, but their breathalysers will say that I am drunk and as such shouldn’t be driving. So if we remove the risk of cops pulling me over then there is no risk at all as I am ‘ok’ to drive. This is the thinking rationale employed by people who drink and drive.

To add some science to the above answer, research shows that impairment begins long before a person reaches the blood alcohol concentration level necessary to be guilty of drunken driving. For the person who is drinking, impairments may be hardly noticeable at the time, but the slow reaction times that they can produce could prove fatal in an emergency-driving situation.

What is stopping you from getting a cab (or Goodfella’s type pick-up)?

This is often related to convenience. It is highly inconvenient to have to wait to be picked up, or even worse, to be picked up before you are ready to leave. Another consideration is the cost of using a pick up service. Cabs and vehicle pick up services come at a cost. After an expensive night at a restaurant or bar, some people feel that the cost of getting a lift home is too much and then choose to drive home. And this is unfortunately a fact. If you use a spot of logic though – saying that a R200 lift home is too much doesn’t say much about the value you place on your life.

In terms of convenience – the instant gratification world we live in has made the inconvenience factor more noticeable, but I have no doubt that the companies that offer the pick up services will manage to solve this problem. Although if we adopt an old principal called forward planning, which solves most issues – I assume it would solve this one too.

Why is drinking and driving ok if you aren’t travelling far?

Naturally the less time there is for something to happen the less likely it is that something will happen. That’s just common logic. But when we ask the clever people and the people who find statistics fun they will beg to differ. They say that 70% of all car accidents happen within a 15km radius from home. So if you have been drinking and you are close to home you are basically asking to have an accident. It may seem crazy to some, but unfortunately we can’t debate facts.

This leads me to the point we have heard so often – just don’t drink and drive. We all like to consider ourselves as rational people, so let’s behave in that manner. We have all the resources we need to make the right choices, so let’s begin to use them and make decisions that we are proud of!

– David Lynch


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