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Breaking Through! - Giovanni Vidotto

Driving under the influence

Since we are entering a season during which the consumption of alcohol increases, it’s important to have the correct information about driving under the influence. There are a lot of misconceptions about when you can be charged, how to get sober, and how to know how much is too much. Some of these misconceptions are dispelled below.


You can’t be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) if you sleep it off in the back seat of your car.

FALSE: You can be charged even if you are not actively driving your car. Even if you drive with a hangover the next morning, you can be charged with DUI. Get this…you can receive a prohibition even if your car is parked in your driveway and you are about to enter your home. If the police suspect that you have been drinking three hours previous to being stopped, they can knock on your door and charge you. You can be charged even if you have been driving your snowmobile while drinking on your own property.


It’s okay to drive if you’re taking a medication and have a prescription to prove this.

FALSE: Anything that impairs you will cause you to be charged – prescribed or not. If you are using an opiate for pain, get your spouse or a designated driver to transport you. The same is the case for medical marijuana. You can be charged for anything that impairs you, whether prescription or over the counter medications like antihistamines.


If you think you’ve had too much to drink, the following will allow you to drive safely: several cups of coffee, cold shower, vomiting, food, etc.

FALSE: Nothing sobers a drinker except time. There is no such thing as safe drinking and driving. Impairment begins with the first drink. Several cups of coffee creates a drunken person with the jitters; vomiting empties the stomach but not the alcohol in your gut or the alcohol in the rest of your body; food absorbs the alcohol but it is still present in your gut waiting to be absorbed.


You can’t be charged if your blood alcohol content (recorded by breathalyser) is below the legal limit.

FALSE: Zero tolerance is the rule. Even if you are at a BAC level of .02, attending to more than one task at a time; maintaining alertness; and remaining fully awake and focused are all affected. At the very least you will get an Immediate Roadside Prohibition (IRP), which is very expensive. This includes vehicle confiscation, license suspended, $600-$4,060 in administrative sanctions and remedial costs, and perhaps referral to the Responsible Driver Program which costs $880.


Nothing sobers a drinker except time.

TRUE: When alcohol is absorbed by the blood, blood alcohol content (BAC) immediately rises to a peak. When you stop drinking, your BAC levels off; however, it can remain at the same level for two hours after stopping intake. When you cease consuming, the alcohol in your stomach is waiting in line to enter your blood stream. Alcohol enters at the same rate as it is eliminated. Your BAC then declines steadily by 0.015 mgs. per hour. One beer may give you a BAC of .02, so subtract .015 for each hour of drinking. This is a very, very slow process.


Women get drunker than men, and faster.

TRUE: Peak blood alcohol content (BAC) depends on weight and fat. After drinking the same amount, a person of 80 kgs. with lots of fat reaches a higher BAC than a lean 80 kg. person of the same sex. Because women carry more fat than men, equal amounts of alcohol results in a higher BAC for a 60 kg. woman than for a 60 kg. man. In addition, women contain fewer of the enzymes needed to metabolize alcohol.


For a first offence all you get is your vehicle impounded.

FALSE: For a first offence in five years (BAC of .05-.08) the following may be applied:

  • and a referral to the Responsible Driver Program ($880)
  • renting and maintaining a vehicle interlock device ($300 plus $150 per month to monitor)
  • These penalties do not include the possible cost of…
  • $250 licence reinstatement fee
  • $200 administrative penalty
  • 3-day impoundment ($150)
  • 3-day driving suspension


A standard glass of fine wine (142 mls.) to celebrate with friends is great to drink for those who do not have a problem with alcohol. But be careful – even one glass may get you charged. Assign a friend to be a designated driver or call professional services to drive you, or that one glass may end up costing more than you expected. The greatest cost is not to your pocket book but to both your family and to the family of someone who may be your victim.

Read more Breaking Through! articles


About the Author

Drugs and alcohol have been our companions for millennia. We have used them to induce visions, to socialize, to ritualize experience, and to medicate our many problems. Too often we abuse substances; they become problematic and they impact not only ourselves but also the families, friendships and communities in which we live.

Giovanni Vidotto will provide bi-weekly information that explores the many aspects of substance abuse and addiction. He holds a Master’s degree in counselling psychology and has worked in the field for over thirty years. He has served clients in both residential and outpatient treatment facilities, and has been a presenter of workshops and courses on the field of addictions.

He serves clients in his private practice called Breaking Through! You may reach him at 778-363-2232, or you may e-mail him at [email protected]. You may also find more information from his website at

Giovanni's other column on Castanet is Finding Kelowna, and it may be accessed here.  Its purpose is to reveal the startling brilliance of everyday life which may be beautiful, tragic or bizarre.

The information presented in this column is not meant as a replacement for comprehensive, face-to-face counselling or medical treatment.


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.

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