The Calgary Journal
The Calgary Journal

Many Calgarians are still unsure what .05 blood alcohol level really means

thumb AlchoholIMAGEWith Alberta's new impaired driving laws in effect, many Calgarians are still unaware of what having a blood alcohol level of .05 really means.

That's the minimum level that will now result in a three-day licence suspension and a three-day vehicle seizure. Representatives of the restaurant industry say it's a damper on business and many just don't know what it takes to hit that level.

 Jordan Humenjuk is a Mount Royal University student who goes out for drinks about twice a week. He is still unclear about the new laws and the penalties that come with it, but he has a good enough understanding and plays it safe when he goes out.

" I don't think anybody really knows their limit, I mean how can you?" Humenjuk said.

"If I feel fine to drive I can go out for a drive, I don't feel like I'm threatening AlchoholIMAGE2Calgary lawyer Patrick Higgerty says the penalties for driving with a blood alcohol level of .05 include a three-day license suspension and a three-day vehicle impound. 

Photo by Riad Kadri
anybody. Surely if I have had enough, I'm not going to get on the road."

Humenjuk feels old habits die hard with this new law from what he has seen. He compares it to the distracted driving law, which came into effect earlier this year.

"I don't see an increase in cab use amongst some friends, half the time they still drive," he said.

As of Sept. 1, the new law came into effect in Alberta to reduce alcohol-related collisions.

But what many don't realize is that having a blood alcohol level of .05 has always been subject to penalties.

"If you were over .05 before, you had your licence suspended," said Patrick Higgerty, a Calgary lawyer who specializes in personal injury.

"Now you get your licence suspended as well if you blow over (the limit), it's just that the penalties are greater."

The severity of the penalties has gone from a 24-hour suspension, to a three-day suspension, along with a three-day vehicle impound.

But when do you know you are at the limit?

Recently the Calgary Police Service held an information session with media to show how much it takes to get you to .05 and to show how impairment can occur before that level is reached.

The goal of the session was to simulate a business lunch by giving reporters alcohol and food over a period of time, with periodical breathalyzer tests to monitor their blood alcohol content throughout the experiment.

Bryce Forbes of The Calgary Herald was one of the participating reporters in the session.

"I didn't really know what to expect, I had never done anything like that," Forbes said.

AlchoholIMAGEJordan Humenjuk says he feels old habits die hard with this new law. 

Photo by Riad Kadri
Forbes said there were two separate groups. The first group consisted of four women, the other, three large men including Forbes.

"We went in there kind of blind and we were really surprised with the results."

With two beers and an empty stomach— at 30 minutes—Forbes had blown half the legal limit (.025). The experiment continued with lunch and a few more beers over a 45-minute period.

"After the fourth beer, I was at the point where I was questioning whether or not I should be driving," Forbes said.

"The police tell me that if you have to question whether or not you should be driving, you're already past the point of making the right decision."

Forbes believes that the new law doesn't target people who have one or two

The new penalties:

Alberta Transportation released some information regarding the new .05 impaired driving laws and the new penalties that are included:

• 1st offence - Immediate 3-day licence suspension and 3-day vehicle seizure.

• 2nd offence - Immediate 15-day licence suspension, 7-day vehicle seizure and a Planning Ahead course.

• 3rd offence - Immediate 30-day licence suspension, 7-day vehicle seizure and the Impact course.

 

drinks with dinner or after work.

"I had four beers in an hour and a half, which would be equal to about two and a half pints. I was slurring my speech and I couldn't stand up straight," he said.

"I took a taxi home."

 It is difficult to determine how much a person can actually drink before driving since their body is constantly changing, so it is up to the individual to take responsibility and make the right decision.

Mike Nunn of the Calgary Police Service media unit said it varies for each person from day to day depending on what you eat and what kind of medication you take, along with many other contributing factors based on that person's physiology.

Sgt. Richard Butler of the Calgary Police Service's drug and alcohol recognition unit said there is no "hard and fast way" to determine how much an individual can drink before getting behind the wheel.

"The only safe level for anybody is always going to be zero," Butler said.

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What do you think about the new impaired driving law? Is it to strict? Voice your opinion in the comments section below.