A survey* of young people attending a regional music festival has found that factors such as an awareness of their blood alcohol concentration (BAC), and having more than five hours sleep and less than six drinks the night before made them feel safer to drive in the morning.

The survey of 409 participants - 66 were drinking during the morning of the survey and were excluded - 60.4% of them male, was conducted by medical students from Western Sydney University, overseen by Dr Sabrina Pit from the University Centre for Rural Health North Coast, and the STEER youth project, which provides voluntary breath testing at North Coast music events and other events, including private functions.

To be published in the international online journal Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy the survey found that although only one-in-five interviewees felt completely safe to drive that day, half of them intended to do so. Of those, two in five changed their intention of driving after reading their actual BAC level from the breathalyser.

For each extra passenger present within a car, an individual was 50% more likely to drive at a later time after having received their BAC reading.

The main findings were that people with a full licence, more than five hours of sleep and less than six alcoholic drinks, and estimated BAC levels of less than 0.05 felt safer to drive.

“These findings present important implications for alcohol and road safety public health messages and interventions directed towards young people”.

Participants who slept more than seven hours the previous night were three times more likely to feel safe to drive than those who had less than five hours of sleep

Another significant observation was the high level of alcohol consumption amongst festival goers - the median number of drinks in the last 24 hours for participants was 12 standard drinks, twice the number of standard drinks considered to be a binge.

The authors said the results indicated “more awareness may need to be placed on safe driving practices, or alternative transport options by music festival organisers for those participants who do not feel safe to drive.”

They added, “Encouraging young individuals to self-evaluate their BAC prior to driving has the potential to increase self-awareness regarding safety to drive.

Further interventions targeting youth regarding how BACs are measured, the lasting effects of alcohol within the body hours after drinking cessation has occurred, and education on the effects of compounding factors resulting in decreased safety on the road such as sleep may support this endeavour.”

* Perceived driving safety and estimated blood alcohol concentration the morning after drinking amongst young Australians attending a music festival: A cross-sectional survey. Mario Fernando; Johanna Buckland; Prashina Melwani; Vanessa Tent; Phil Preston; Sabrina Winona Pit, Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy