It’s that time of year again when people are hauling out their spring and summer clothes, changing over winter tires to summer tires and gearing up for another camping season. For many of us, the summer season unofficially begins on the Victoria Day weekend!
When we think of things that go hand-in-hand with summer and camping we automatically think of campfires, roasting marshmallows, trouting, and hopefully the beginning of some nice weather!
As Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, we often associate alcohol with many special events from weddings to funerals, christenings to graduations, and camping is no exception. While we want to be social and enjoy these moments with family and friends, it’s important for all of us to remember that as a province, we have some of the highest rates of heavy alcohol use per capita in Canada – and with that comes an increased risk for alcohol related harms.
Rethink ATV or Boat Use
One of the short-term risks of alcohol use is impaired driving – something that we hear about far too often. For many, a weekend at the cabin or camping at the park means rides on the quad or a spin out in the boat. While many people may make the right decision not to drive their car or truck after they have consumed alcohol, some don’t always consider ATVs or boats as falling in the same category.
Operating any motorized vehicle while impaired by alcohol and/or other drugs can have fatal consequences. In fact, Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada estimates that, “On average, approximately four people are killed each day in motor vehicle accidents involving alcohol and/or drugs.”
There is a myth that there is less risk operating a quad or dirt bike while under the influence because they are not usually driven on a main road or highway but mostly on trails or paths. The truth is, alcohol can impact your ability to operate any motorized vehicle safely. Alcohol is a depressant drug that affects coordination, depth perception, focus, concentration and impairs judgement increasing the risk of accidents with any activity.
The same applies to operating a boat. According to the Canadian Red Cross, “Every year, hundreds of people die as a result of boating-related activities. Almost 65 per cent of these deaths involve the use of alcohol.”
From a legal perspective, operating any motorized vehicle, whether it be a car, motorcycle, quad or boat while under the influence of alcohol is illegal and can carry the same impaired driving charges.
Rethink Sobering Up
Another important consideration when it comes to drinking and driving is that impairment can last for hours and even into the next day. On average, it takes the body around one and a half hours to process one standard drink from the moment you finished drinking.
Remember, one size does not fit all. The actual time it takes for alcohol to leave your body can vary depending on factors such gender, height, weight, age, medication use, food intake and rate of alcohol consumption.
Elizabeth Peddle is an Addictions Coordinator with Eastern Health’s Mental Health and Addictions program, and facilitates the Driving While Impaired program in the Clarenville area. This is a program people must complete as a part of the license reinstatement process with the Department of Motor Vehicle Registration if an individual has received an impaired driving charge. “Many people that come through this group were surprised to be charged as they didn’t think they were impaired, didn’t feel impaired and thought they were okay to drive,” she says.
Elizabeth also highlights that one trend on the rise over the past number of years is people getting charged with impaired driving the morning after drinking. “More and more people have been charged with impaired driving the day after they have used alcohol as they are not aware of how much time is required before they are safe to drive.”
One way to reduce the risk of impaired driving is by having a good understanding of what constitutes a standard drink. In Canada, one Standard Drink equals:
Rethink Your Safety
If alcohol is part of your May 24 celebrations, it’s wise to understand how alcohol affects body functioning and increases the potential for injury or harm. For example, alcohol lowers core body temperature and inhibits the body’s signaling system so that people don’t realize how cold they’ve become. A combination of extreme cold and alcohol can increase the risk of hypothermia. Consuming alcohol and then falling into water or falling overboard this May 24 weekend will increase the risk of hypothermia!
In addition, drinking alcohol during campfires, barbecuing or other activities that require attention and alertness may increase the risk for accidental injuries since alcohol affects your gait, balance, coordination, and depth perception.
There’s lots of fun to be had this May 24 weekend! After a long, hard winter it’s finally time to get outside and enjoy the beauty this province has to offer. So, relax and enjoy it, but most of all stay safe!
Tips from Rethink That Drink for a Safe & Healthy Victoria Day Weekend
If you choose to drink this summer camping season, consider these tips on how to reduce your risk:
- Stay within the Low Risk Drinking Guidelines for special occasions, which means no more than 4 standard drinks for a man and no more than 3 standard drinks for a woman at any one sitting. Remember, limits are lower for women due to biological differences!
- Alternate drinking water or non-alcoholic drinks with alcoholic beverages so that you stay hydrated.
- Eat food and snacks before and while consuming alcohol. Don’t forget the s’mores and wieners at the campfire!
- Arrange for a ride home, have money for a cab, stay the night or walk with a buddy back to your cabin or campsite – never drive impaired!
- Remember no alcohol is best if you are planning on becoming pregnant, are pregnant or are about to breastfeed.
- Consider other health factors such as mental health and taking medications that may interact with alcohol. In these cases, no alcohol is the best option. Have a mug up instead!
This story was written by Tracey Sharpe-Smith, a Regional Addictions Prevention Consultant with Eastern Health.