To evaluate how well people in the night-time economy can assess their own breath alcohol concentration (BrAC), in the context of a change in breath alcohol limits for driving.
We conducted a field study of 242 participants over 5 nights in the central business district of a university town in New Zealand. Participants completed a short survey, which included questions on their self-reported level of intoxication and the self-estimated BrAC. At the conclusion of the interview each participant was breath-tested. We compared actual and self-estimated BrAC using a scatter plot and multiple regression methods.
The average BrAC error was 61.7 μg/l, meaning that on average participants overestimate their BrAC. Participants with a BrAC below 487 μg/l tended to overestimate their BrAC on average, and those with a BrAC above 487 μg/l tended to underestimate their BrAC on average. Regression results supported this observation, but also found that men who are not 'out on a typical night' overestimate their BrAC by more.
Drinkers in this naturalistic setting have little idea of their level of intoxication, as measured by BrAC. However, this uncertainty may be advantageous to public health outcomes, since if drinkers are uncertain about their level of intoxication relative to the legal limit, this may lead them to avoid drunk driving.
A field study of drinkers in the night-time economy of a New Zealand university town was conducted to evaluate how well drinkers can assess their breath alcohol concentration (BrAC). Drinkers in this setting inaccurately estimate their intoxication, and those with higher BrAC tended to underestimate their BrAC on average.