Ok, I am not an expert on this matter. And maybe reading my post is a waste of time as I am sure many other people have given more thought than I have to the issue of drunk driving. But governments around the world spend fortunes trying to find out if people are driving drunk by randomly stopping them and testing them. This leads to enormous amounts of lawsuits and all sorts of miseries. And while I think the intentions are excellent and drunk driving is the cause of an incredible amount of death maybe some of their efforts are misguided. What society should really want to know is not if a person is a dangerous driver. And the two are not exactly related. Take my case. I am a terrible drinker. I rarely drink. When I do is a glass of wine. The few times I have had 3 glasses of wine during dinner I got drunk, silly smiles, poor coordination and all. And wine is all I drink, no beer which I dislike, nor hard liquor that except when greatly diluted in fruit juice, I also dislike. Gin? Ron? Tequila? Vodka? Not for me. My body seems to have very little tolerance for alcohol. So what I am trying to say here is that while I could pass alcohol tests better than my friends as I drink much less, I know that my friends can drive much better than I can after drinking, say, 2 glasses of wine. I am very sensitive to alcohol. The point of drinking and driving is not to find out how much you drink but how well you can drive. If that is the case how about testing THAT. For example my neighborhood in Madrid is full of speed bumps. How about replacing those with serpentines that not only would slow you down but also be very hard to navigate when drunk? Or how about having cars make you do a simple coordination test in order to turn on? What we would like to know is not how much people drink but if their reflexes and ability to drive is still there. And this could be tested for all drivers in 30 seconds before they get going. In that sense the tests they used to do in the States when I live there made more sense. They did not test you for alcohol but made you walk tight rope style on the road dividing line. At least they were testing coordination and that relates more to driving than alcohol itself.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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Matt on September 2, 2009  · 

Right… However, the alphabet backwards could be avoided…

I imagine the ‘in-car test’ like a small console you plug in your car (could be done on your phone, but too hard to link to your car system!), and if you successfully pass the ‘coordination’ and ‘reflex’ test, you’re good to ignite the engine and go…

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Martín on September 2, 2009  · 

the thing is that most of drunk drivers think that they are perfectly capable of driving. And the test of coordination and reflex are very complex. The best thing to do is not to drive and take a cab (and I have to recognise that I’ve driven under the effects of alcohol, but if I wasn’t a student and could afford to pay a taxi everynight i would do it…)

If with alcohol test you can save one single life it’s worth it… but maybe they should also do coordination and reflex test.

It’s true that thanks to alcohol test people (in my case students) think things twice before drinking and driving.

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Dave Stone on September 2, 2009  · 

I wonder if 23andme could do anything here…

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Jeff on September 2, 2009  · 

Taxis are great but in smaller towns they are far and few between – here in Catalunya the speed combined with drinking is lethal. There needs to be better control for speed as well as testing for level of intoxication. And what about drug testing? It’s clear that the number of accidents is directly related to the level of intoxication by some mind-altering substance.

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Robert on September 2, 2009  · 

Hmm, interesting view, but in reality it’s tough to make, i guess, since everyone is different as you point out. Also, there are various effects that can make you behave like under alcohol – e.g. skipping sleep for 1 night gives you a delay on reaction etc. equivalent to about 1,0 ppm alcohol.

Still, it is reflected in German laws – the barrier for blood alcohol that you are allowed to have is higher, when you don’t behave strangely in traffic. If you get caught behaving strangely, it’s sufficient to have a lower alcohol blood level than if you are perfectly fine to steer your vehicle. If i am not mistaken, legal limits are below 0,5 ppm when you’re ok driving and below 0,3ppm when you drive funny

A couple of years ago, there was a discussion in Germany (dunno if it’s been introduced) is to also make driving ability tests for elderly, since you basically got your drivers license for life – until something happened. Like my grandpa, who had parkinson and got restrictions after colliding with his neighbour’s car, parked across the street, repeatedly while backing out of his driveway.

But since elderly who are similarly affected when maneuvering a vehicle regarding, reaction speed, view, peripheral view, coordination, there was a reaction to regularly get tested – not on every drive though.

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George on September 2, 2009  · 

Volvo has a patent for avoiding drink/drive problems, I think they included a blow test in the ignition key. If you test positive the car just won’t start. Don’t know if they already offer this as option. There’s also a speed limit depending on who’s driving (imagine you lend you car to your 19 year old son….). Now they offer cars that stop by themselves if you are just about to crash… Also some cars (I think MB) are able to scan you eyes in case you start closing them too much, or lane detectors that sound an alarm if you drift…
My point being: Police controls are OK but way too far from being really effective. Cars should have enough technology on board to avoid drunk or unfit people to drive.

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Stephen G on September 2, 2009  · 


I think I can get to 0.5 ppm just *looking* at a beer. Perhaps you meant .05% BAC (blood alcohol content)?

This article lists limits per-country. E.g., Germany: 0.05% except for learner drivers, all drivers 18-21 and newly licensed drivers of any age for first two years of licence who have a zero tolerance / 0.00% limit.


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