Like most people, I know that drinking and driving is dumb. But also, like most people, I do not have much idea of how alcohol affects my driving.
I know how it affects my ability to say and do things that I may later regret. But none of them have ever happened behind the wheel.
I have been breathalysed four times and always been zero. On three of those occasions I had not had a drink. On the fourth I had been at a birthday party and had my last of three glasses of wine by 10 and went home at 1.30.
There is some fuss about Shane Ross proposing something close to zero tolerance.
Road deaths are creeping up again after great success in reducing them in the Gay Byrne era. But as Gay kept on saying, without regular unpredictable enforcement deaths would increase. He was right.
Last week I did some drinking and driving in the controlled environment of Stunt Drive Ireland near Arklow. I did it for KCLR96FM. My efforts are there for all to see on that website. With a trainer instructing me I repeatedly did a slalom course of cones. I did it sober, and after one, two and three 500ml cans of Guinness which are in or around a pint in old money. It is a task which required concentration and coordination.
Anyone who drinks knows that alcohol changes mood quite quickly. That is one of the reasons we drink. And anyone who drinks more than a few knows that simple co-ordination is affected. I was surprised how much one pint affected my confidence. This drive was going to be a piece of cake. First of all I was a few seconds slower. And secondly I didn't concentrate as well and smacked into a cone which could as easily have been a dog, child, car or gatepost. I was definitely impaired by one pint. After two pints I hit two cones. Then my trainer asked me to do it in reverse. I did. But I was very slow.
Three pints and by now I was settled down. I knew I had been drinking. I was determined not to hit anything. I succeeded. But I was a full 12 seconds slower than when sober and was driving at a speed that would most certainly have attracted attention for kerbcrawling. I pulled out all the stops for one last go and repeated the slalom faster and two cones were splattered on the way.
Then it was time for me to learn to do a handbrake turn, a pleasure on someone else's tyres. It is simple. Slam in the clutch, pull the handbrake, and turn the steering wheel 90 degrees. Try as I might I failed, and in a different way each attempt. There was no consistency. I over-steered. I under-steered. I braked. Sober I would have had no problem.
Perhaps Shane Ross is that bit ahead of the nation on this one.
Zero might not be a bad target.
Sunday Indo Living