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0.05 vs 0.08: What's the difference when it comes to blood-alcohol limit?

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When it comes to drinking, what does a 0.05 blood-alcohol limit look like for the average person compared to 0.08?

According to Geneviève Desautels, director general of Éduc'alcool, it's difficult to say precisely as it depends on an array of factors.

"We are all unique towards alcohol, depending on your system, your digestion, your way of processing alcohol," she explains. "[For] example, after three sips of wine, I know it, I feel it, OK, but some of my friends, it's after the third glass."

She notes oftentimes, people will think they are able to drive when the opposite is, in fact, true.

"It's why the SAAQ message is always when you drink, you don't drive because it's so hard to just take the feeling and be able to take your decision based on that feeling," Desautels notes. "We have to understand that the alcohol will affect the way of seeing things, of feeling things."

Éduc'alcool, a non-profit organization, is the 35-year-old brainchild of several people involved in alcohol-related organizations, including the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ), the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux du Québec (RACJ), as well as a winery and distillery.

Motion defeated

The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) voted Thursday against a motion to to add administrative sanctions for drivers whose blood-alcohol limit exceeds 0.05.

This is despite a long-fought campaign by a Montreal couple following the death of their daughter, Jessica Sarli-Rivera, in 2017.

The 26-year-old was killed when the car she was in, driven by a drunk driver, was involved in a collision.

In Canada, a blood-alcohol level of more than 0.08 is a criminal offence.

The motion to add administrative sanctions at a 0.05 blood-alcohol limit, following in the footsteps of other Canadian provinces, was presented at the National Assembly on Thursday by Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ) House Leader Monsef Derraji.

"In British Columbia, for example, thanks to this measure, there has been a 52 per cent drop in fatal accidents," said Derraji.

The motion was defeated 31 votes to 67, though Québec Solidaire (QS) and the Parti Québécois (PQ) voted in favour of the Liberal's motion.

Antoine Bittar says he was not surprised that the CAQ voted against the motion.

"Everything they [the CAQ] were saying was just words," he told CTV News. "I was very disappointed...I had a slight hope, but I was very disappointed."

He says he and his wife, Élizabeth Rivera, will continue lobbying in order to "save lives and stop other families from going through what we're going through."

"It's very hard. It's very emotional. We're very tired, Elizabeth and I, but we feel that we have the support of a lot of people," he said. "People realize more and more, and they still ask the same question: why are they not doing it? And that's a big frustration that we have. We say, 'Don't ask us, call your MNA, ask them to put pressure, ask them to get real answers.'"

Calcoholator

Though data showing the average number of drinks a person can handle is considered out of date, Éduc'alcool does have a "calcoholator" where a person can input their information to see what their limit could be.

For example, for an average man weighing 180 pounds, drinking a can of beer means their blood-alcohol limit would be about 0.016 after half an hour.

The organization concludes, "Your current blood-alcohol content (BAC) indicates that you should be OK to drive."

However, for an average woman weighing 155 pounds, her blood-alcohol limit would be about 0.024 after half an hour if they drank one beer.

Two beers would mean 0.040 BAC for an average man and 0.057 BAC for a woman after half an hour.

Under the Liberals' motion, a woman would therefore not be able to drive, but a man would need a third beer to send his blood-alcohol level over the limit (0.063).

Similarly, for a glass of wine, two glasses would be too much for an average woman (0.056) compared to a man, who would be 0.063 after three drinks.

At the current criminal limit of 0.08, an average man's blood-alcohol limit would be considered illegal after four cans of beer or four glasses of wine; for a woman, it's three cans of beer or three glasses of wine.

These calculations are estimates, and anyone considering drinking should always err on the side of caution before getting behind the wheel.

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