No such thing as safe alcohol consumption – Expert

by BERNAMA/ pic by BERNAMA

DRIVING under the influence of alcohol put all lives at risk, not just the life of the irresponsible driver himself but also other road users including cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians.

According to a research conducted by the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros), a drunk driver is 13 times more likely to cause an accident, compared to a sober person.

The sudden increase in cases involving drunk drivers recorded in the first five months of this year, at 21 with nine deaths, compared to a total of 23 cases reported for the whole of last year, has undoubtedly caused concern among the general population.

Universiti Malaya’s Centre of Addiction Sciences (UMCAS) director Dr Rusdi Abd Rashid stressed that there is no safe level for alcohol consumption when it comes to health risks.

He said even when the level of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) as low as 0.02 per cent it would already affected the individual involved.

Some of them would experience blurred vision and if the BAC level was at 0.05 per cent, it could cause impairment of coordination, balance and reflexes as well as reduces one’s ability to response, he said.

“BAC level at 0.08 per cent will result in an inability to control the speed limit, disruptions to muscle coordination and loss of focus while BAC at 0.10 per cent, one’s voice would become inaudible apart from the difficulty to process information.

“When the BAC level is at 0.15 per cent, it will cause complete loss of control including muscle paralysis, loss of hearing and vision,” he told Bernama recently.

He said therefore those who were under the influence of alcohol were unfit to drive any type of vehicles.

“They will also lose control of their physical movements and will experience visual and hearing impairments as well as unable to make decision. In addition, their rationale and response are slow and can cause them to be involved in road crashes and violent behaviour,” he said.

Individuals under the influence of alcohol are unfit to drive and they should not be allowed to drive at all, he said.

“Intoxicated people should travel home by taxi or disallowed from travelling altogether until a family member comes to pick them up.

“Their level of consciousness is similar to those taking CNS depressant drugs such as barbiturate (anesthetic) and sleeping tablets nitrazepam,” he said.

He said intoxicated individual are capable of committing various criminal acts such as murder, incest, abusive of wife and children.

Currently, the BAC level permitted in the country is at 0.08 per cent while several other countries including Hungary, Romania and Czech Republic have lowered their permitted BAC level to 0.05 per cent.

Citing Brazil as an example, he said, the country introduced regulations related to drink-driving in 1998 with permitted BAC level at 0.06 per cent and reduced it further to 0.02 per cent in 2008. As a result, the death rate dropped by 16 per cent in Sao Paulo.

Dr Rusdi said the existing law under the Road Transport Act 1987 was sufficient but the enforcement was relatively inadequate.

“The implementation of breath analyser tests, for example, is still low,” he said.

“I am being told that in the western countries almost every month drivers are subjected to alcohol testing. One of the aspects that can be improved in Malaysia is public education on risks associated with alcohol consumption,” he said.