Saturday, December 02, 2006

It's just 4 drinks!

He was a tubby kid. Oh, about 22 years old or so. Pudgy, even funny face, in a Drew Carey sort of way. Laying on the cold steel table. My first autopsy. I remember how dark blood seeped out when we rolled him to the side, only it no longer looked like blood. I remember thinking it looked like motor oil. I remember how his half his lower teeth moved independently from the other half; he had broken his jaw right through. Motor-vehicle accident. And the pathologist said alcohol was suspected.
Some facts:
  • In 2004 there were over 16,000 alcohol-related deaths in the USA. Equivalent to a fully-laden 747 jet crashing with no survivors, every 9 days.
  • Most accidents did not happen to a chronic alcohol abuser, but rather, people who drink occasionally.
  • The legal blood alcohol content in most US states is 0.08 %. For a 140 lb person like me, that's about a limit of 2 drinks before I fail a breathalyzer. However this is also dependent on how fast you absorb alcohol (empty stomach versus full) and how slow you metabolize it (and yes, it's a medical fact that some Asians lack the enzyme, alcohol dehydrogenase, to metabolize it).
  • Many of us think you need to be drunk silly to cause an accident. In fact many alcohol-related accidents are caused by poor reflexes, impaired judgment, disinhibition and recklessness. Think about why you took a few swigs before you approached that chick at the bar, or popped the question to your girlfriend; it makes you more thick-skinned, disinhibited. Bravado.
In the last one year, two people very close to me have had alcohol-related accidents. In the more recent one, the speed of impact was about 100 km/h. The car, a Proton, had no airbag, flipped over from the impact. Possibly a good thing, for if the car had hit a solid block of concrete at that speed and was not able to decrease its force by flipping over, the accident may have had dire consequences. Going from 100 to zero in the few milliseconds it takes with no airbags would likely have been fatal. And t-boning another car at that speed would likely kill those passengers.
In the second accident, it was lower impact, but shamefully, regrettably, involved another vehicle.
In both of there, people could easily have been killed.
Perhaps for that reason, I at awake now, at 430am, unable to sleep. Feeling so angry. So anxious. Yet so relieved. And so grateful the God was watching over them. Praying that they have learnt their lesson.
It's a fact. Drinking and driving is taken lightly in Malaysia. The police hardly enforce this, and when they do, it takes just a few dollars to gearse their hands enough that they let you go. People don't think twice about taking more than a few drinks and then driving home. I daresay I've seen so many people, men especially, in my social circle back home do this.

I'm ok, I can handle my alcohol. Look, I can still walk and talk alright.
It was only 4 drinks. That doesn't apply to me. I'm not drunk. I'm not an alcoholic!

Haven't we all heard this?
But the truth is, you don't need to be drunk to kill someone on the road. Just intoxicated enough, just disinhibited enough, to drive a little bit too fast, to drive a little bit too recklessly. I know many of you who visit my blog drink. And many have families, or are just starting up. Some still in college. So please, don't drink and drive. You have a good life, don't throw it all away by killing yourself, or killing others and going to jail for it.