Alcohol and the law (.08)

Drinking and driving is not only irresponsible, it’s very dangerous for you and everyone else on the road.

The Criminal Code is extremely clear. It states that it isforbidden to operate a motor vehicule when:

  • your ability to operate a motor vehicule is impaired;
  • the alcohol concentration in your blood is greater than 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood, the famous “point zero eight” (.08).

For new drivers with a learner’s or probationary licence:

  • the law is even more severe;
  • It is forbidden to drive with any alcohol in your system. Zero tolerance is the rule.

But how can you tell if your faculties are impaired? How do you know if you’re over the legal limit?

Comment savoir si nos facultés sont affaiblies?

Know yourself

First of all, remember that there is the same amount of alcohol in standard servings of any alcoholic beverage, no matter what kind.

Next, you have to learn how to calculate your blood alcohol content in milligrams (mg) and interpret it in terms of the “point zero eight” legal limit (80 mg).

This document give you an idea of what your blood alcohol content is likely to be, depending on your sex, your weight and how many drinks you have had.

It’s important to subtract 15 mg of alcohol an hour, starting from the first drink, since that is the rate at which your body eliminates the alcohol. And forget the widespread myth that says you can handle one drink an hour. It’s not true. Or rather, it’s true only if you’re a man who weighs 115 kg or more.

Also, if your liver is not functioning properly, it works less efficiently and more slowly, which slows the elimination process. Anyone with health problems should abstain from drinking or drink very moderately.

Warning! The charts contain approximations only and should be interpreted with care. Other factors, such as fatigue, stress and medications, can affect your capacity to absorb alcohol. Your emotional and physical state can also determine your response to alcohol. In other words, you may be in no condition to drive, no matter what the charts say.

So think twice before having one too many and getting behind the wheel.

Know your own limits

When it comes to alcohol, we are not all created equal. Never mind what your friends, partners or coworkers are drinking. They have their limits and you have yours.

Aside from the speed at which you’re drinking, your sex, weight and muscle mass will determine how much alcohol you can consume before being affected. Furthermore, everyone reacts differently to alcohol, depending on their individual personality traits and particular psychological state at the time of drinking.

Generally speaking, women are more sensitive to alcohol because of their size, weight and percentage body fat. Women have a higher percentage of body fat than men, which means they have a lower percentage of water, and since alcohol dissolves mostly in water, women will achieve a higher blood alcohol concentration sooner than men.

Research has also shown that women’s stomachs contain less of the enzyme responsible for breaking down alcohol. Consequently, a greater amount of alcohol reaches their bloodstream.

One standard drink for a woman is equal to about one and a half drinks for a man. In other words, it takes less alcohol for a women to be impaired than a man.

Whatever the case, never let others decide for you and, most importantly, don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Life is just too short to play Russian roulette with alcohol.

Assess the situation based on how YOU feel. You know your body and your feelings don’t lie!

What does the law say?

The law is very clear: the legal drinking limit, i.e. your blood alcohol limit, varies according to the type of licence you have.

Legal limit of alcohol consumption to be able to drive

  • Learner’s licence: zero (0)
  • Probationary licence: zero (0)
  • Driver’s licence – under age 22: zero (0)
  • Driver’s licence: « Point zero eight » (.08)

Test your knowledge of the law

True or false?

  • If you are pulled over for impaired driving, your licence will be suspended immediately if it is a repeat offense.

FALSE. If you are found to be driving while impaired, your licence will be suspended immediately for 90 days, regardless of whether it’s a repeat offense or not.

  • If you are convicted on a first offence, you will have to pay a significant fine but you get to keep your driver’s licence.

FALSE. If you are convicted on a first offence, you have to pay a significant fine and your driver’s licence is automatically cancelled for one year.

In addition, first offenders must submit to a mandatory summary assessment of their behaviour, administered in a special centre, to determine whether their drinking habits are compromising their ability to drive safely. If the assessment is unfavourable, they must undergo a comprehensive assessment.

  • If you are driving with a learner’s licence or probationary license, or you are under age 22 with any type of licence, and are found to have even the slightest amount of alcohol in your blood, your licence will be suspended for 90 days.

TRUE. If you are driving with a learner’s licence or probationary license and are found to have even the slightest amount of alcohol in your blood:

  • Four (4) demerit points will be entered on your driving record.
  • You will have to pay between $438 and $865, including the fine plus other fees and contributions.
  • If convicted of driving while impaired, you will be treated like all other drivers and your driver’s licence will be cancelled automatically for one year.
  • Legal limit applies to all drivers, but there are a few exceptions.

FALSE. The legal limit applies to all drivers, no matter why they were drinking. Police officers will not give you a break even if you think you had a good reason to celebrate, e.g. a birthday, a promotion, a new job or a wedding.


Whatever the circumstances, if you have a learner’s licence or probationary license, or if you are under age 22, no matter what type of licence you have, you mustn’t drink at all if you plan to drive. If you have a regular driver’s licence and are over 21 years of age, it’s better not to drink if you plan to drive, or if you do, to drink moderately.

How can you tell if someone has drunk too much to drive?

It’s pretty easy to tell when people have had too much to drink. Some signs are physical:

  • Their eyes look irritated and bloodshot
  • Their breathing is rapid
  • They may be perspiring heavily

Other changes are behavioural. People who have drunk too much:

  • Speak louder and more quickly
  • Don’t enunciate clearly
  • Have trouble standing up and walking a straight line
  • Stagger or stumble easily
  • Move more slowly
  • Seem distracted
  • Respond more slowly to questions
  • May be drowsy or fall asleep

Alcohol can also make people sadder, more aggressive or noisier. And it can cause them to break into uncontrollable laughter that has nothing to do with having fun!

What should you do?

If someone has drunk too much, you should offer help, as necessary by doing any or all of the following:

  • Try to keep the person from driving
  • Offer a lift home
  • Offer any other safe solution

Can you drive?

How does someone who has drunk too much behave behind the wheel?

Someone whose blood alcohol content is above the legal limit will have increasing difficulty with perception, motor coordination and concentration, which impairs the ability to drive safely.

When people are intoxicated their peripheral vision is reduced, they don’t hear as well and their ability to estimate distances is diminished. Their reflexes slow down and they may have trouble reacting appropriately to an obstacle in the road.

After a few drinks, people’s faculties are impaired and their personality changes. Without realizing it, they are likely to underestimate risk.

And yet, everyone knows that driving requires your full attention. You must be in full possession of your faculties before you get behind the wheel or you will pose a danger to yourself and others on the road. It takes good judgement, quick reflexes, the ability to anticipate events and excellent coordination to drive safely and responsibly.

What should you do?

If you have had one or a few too many, hand your keys–and your life–to someone who is in full control and able to drive safely.

How does a responsible driver behave?

A responsible driver knows that someone who has drunk too much should never drive, even if that person feels in full control.

The responsible driver knows that someone who has had one too many can’t make an objective self-assessment. In fact, all drivers who drink may be a danger to themselves and others, even if sometimes their blood alcohol content is below the legal limit.

What should you do?

Friends, relatives, co-workers or whoever else is around should caution a drunk person who is about to drive and offer safe alternatives. Each of us bears a social and moral responsibility when it comes to driving while impaired.

Drunk driving is everyone’s business!

What’s the responsible way to party?

There are a number of options. When you go out with friends, or even as a couple, you can name a designated driver who agrees not to drink alcohol. Over time, you take turns so that everyone gets a chance to party as they like.

Another solution is to share a taxi or take public transit, which doesn’t cost much and minimizes risk. During the holiday season in December, you can contact Opération Nez rouge, an organization that provides volunteer drivers to take you home, no questions asked.

People who host parties can help, too, by providing non-alcoholic drinks, such as juice, sparkling water or fruit punch as options for everyone. Hosts should stop serving alcohol at least one hour before guests are expected to leave, and they should encourage people to stop drinking alcohol in anticipation of the return home.

What should you do?

If any of your guests appears drunk, everyone should be concerned. Don’t hesitate to intervene to prevent someone from driving. Offer a bed for the night or help the person find a place nearby to stay. If the person insists on going home, have someone else do the driving.

Alcohol can often surprise you with its impact. You don’t want to experience that behind the wheel!

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