Update 23/11/10: BC breathalysers are being recalibrated to o.o6. The law about 0.05 is unchanged so blow 0.06+ and you will be subject to new penalties. What happens between 0.05 and 0.06 is unclear but very much depends on the discretion of the police officer. I have checked with local RCMP and even they have no clear guidelines on this situation.

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Now the new drinking driving 0.05 rules are here, it is even more important to know about alcohol consumption and blood alcohol count (BAC). Exceeding the new lower level has serious consequences if you are caught and here on Bowen our local RCMP detachment seems to have become extra zealous.

First, this link will open the Official BC BAC chart. With this you, in theory, can calculate whether your consumption will take you over the 0.05 limit and how long before you’ll be back under it. However, there is a HIDDEN TRAP if you rely on this solely.

Note that the chart is based on standard drinks. For the record a standard drink is reckoned as either a) 12oz beer or b) 1.5oz of spirits or c) 5 oz of wine (roughly equivalent to one fifth of a standard 750ml bottle). However, for the purposes of setting standard drink sizes the servings make an assumption about alcohol levels in each serving. For beer that is 5%, spirits 40% and wine 12%.

The hidden problem is that your actual drink at standard serving size may contain considerably more or less alcohol than given in these charts. In some cases this may mean you are consuming more alcohol than you think.

Consider the following:

Most spirits and beer servings contain exactly the alcohol prescribed in the standard servings. Some beers especially IPAs and specialty imports can have more alcohol though. For instance Quebec’s Fin du Monde has 9% so one glass of that is nearly the equivalent of 2 beers.

Wine, however is a different matter altogether. Looking around our store I’d estimate the average bottle of wine runs to about 13%, no big deal – but variations can be significant. Those big Australian Shiraz can often come in at 15% or above, so one glass is the equivalent of 1.25 standard servings in alcohol content. If you are a 125lb female just one glass of this wine will push you to 0.05%. A 175lb male drinking two of these would be well advised to not drive for 2 hours from the time of the first drink.

So what can you do?

1. Ask the server what the ABV (alcohol by volume) on the bottle is and factor that in to your calculations. The ABV is displayed on every bottle. If you are a bar or restaurant you should be considering adding ABV information to your drinks lists.

2. Try wines that have less alcohol. For instance the very popular Dr. Loosen Riesling has only 8.5% ABV (most Rieslings run between 8 and 11%). That’s just about 1/3 less than the standard measure so not only is it reasonably safe to have one glass – at any weight – and drive straight away, for most it will allow you to have a couple and not run the risk of blowing over o.o5 (but check your weight against the BAC chart first). Another suggestion is one of our best selling white wines, the Gazela Vinho Verde that has only 9% ABV.

Nowadays you really have to be very scrupulous about not only how much you drink but what you drink. There is precious little margin of error at 0.05 and the Holiday Season roadchecks are coming up fast so there’ll be even more chances to lose your car and license. Your best choice at any time is simply not to drink and drive. Take Transit, a cab or nominate a DD from your party.

If you are in our store please ask us to recommend good lower alcohol wines for your party or event.

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