Don’t Be A Drink Driver During This Festive Season!
Over 70,000 people are caught drink driving every year
Drivers are again being warned that a festive tipple or two could bring severe penalties as Christmas fast approaches.
More than half a million drivers are stopped and breathalysed each year by the police, with more breath tests carried out in December than other months – but not without good cause.
Although the level of drinking and driving has dropped dramatically over the last three decades, more than 200 people are still killed in drink drive accidents every year.
Despite 30 years of drink drive education and enforcement, over 70,000 people are still caught drink driving annually. Often it is an innocent person who suffers, not the driver who is over the drink drive limit.
In 2015, 520,219 roadside breath tests were carried out by the police, of which 12% of those tested failed or refused to take the test.
Statistics released by the Department for Transport (DfT) show an increase in casualties and incidents caused by drink driving, while there has been no improvement in drink driving related deaths since 2010.
Campaigners, including the Campaign Against Drink Driving (CADD) and the Alcohol Health Alliance, have called on the Government to lower the drink-drive limit in England and Wales in order to save lives and prevent serious injuries.
Don’t get caught out by the night before
Many drivers do not realise that it can take longer for the effects of alcohol to wear off than they think. It is quite possible to finish drinking at midnight the night before, but still be over the legal alcohol limit driving to work the next day.
With the festivities upon us, most drivers quite sensibly don’t drive when they go to the office party, or to the pub for that Christmas drink. But what many don’t realise is just how long the effects of alcohol can remain in their bloodstream.
Almost 1 in 5 of the 90,000 drivers convicted of drink driving each year are on their way to, or at, work next day.
While many of these drivers probably felt fine to drive, it depends on a number of factors including metabolic rate, the amount of body fat that you have and the combination of drinks you consume as to how adversely affected you may be by alcohol.
What are the legal limits?
In England and Wales, the alcohol limit for drivers is 80 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, 35 microgrammes per 100 millilitres of breath or 107 milligrammes per 100 millilitres of urine. This is the highest in Europe.
At the end of 2014, the alcohol limit for drivers in Scotland was reduced to 50 milligrams of alcohol in every 100 millilitres of blood and 22 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath, and there was a 12.5% decrease in drink-drive offences in the first nine months of the new limit.
In most other European countries, the limit is lower, typically 50 milligrammes per 100 millilitres of blood or less.
Who are most likely to be affected?
The figures show that the profile of Britain’s illegal drink drivers has remained largely the same:
- Three quarters (74%) of those killed and seriously injured are male.
- More than three in ten (31%) drivers killed aged 25 to 39 are over the drink drive limit – the highest of any age group.
- A quarter of drink drive deaths and serious injuries result from crashes where a young driver (17-24 years old) was over the limit.
Why is alcohol such a problem?
People who drive at twice the current legal alcohol level are at least 50 times more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash.
Many of the functions that we depend on to drive safely are affected when we drink alcohol:
- the brain takes longer to receive messages from the eye
- processing information becomes more difficult
- instructions to the body’s muscles are delayed resulting in slower reaction times.
You can also experience blurred and double vision, which affects your ability to see things clearly while you are driving. And you’re more likely to take potentially dangerous risks because you can act on urges you normally repress .
What are the penalties?
Being found guilty of driving while above the legal drink driving limit will result in punishment that could affect the rest of your life.
Anyone caught over the legal alcohol limit when driving will be banned from driving for at least 12 months, fined up to £5,000 and receive between three and 11 penalty points.
They could also be sent to prison for up to six months. All these factors – the length of imprisonment, period of disqualification, size of fine and penalty points depend on the severity of the offence.
An endorsement for a drink-driving offence remains on a driving licence for 11 years, so it is 11 years before a convicted driver will have a “clean” licence again.
And being in charge of a vehicle whilst over the legal limit or unfit through drink could result in three months’ imprisonment plus a fine of up to £2,500 and a driving ban.
The penalty for refusing to provide a specimen of breath, blood or urine for analysis is a maximum of six months’ imprisonment, a fine of up to £5,000 and a driving ban of at least 12 months.
Driving or attempting to drive whilst above the legal limit or unfit through drink carries a maximum penalty of six months’ imprisonment, a fine of up to £5,000 and a minimum of a 12 month driving ban.
If the worst should happen, causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison, a minimum two year driving ban and a requirement to pass an extended driving test before the offender is able to drive legally again.
If you’re caught drink driving more than once in a 10 year period, you’ll be banned for at least three years.
What action should you take?
So what advice can you follow to prevent the worst from happening?
- If you are going out for the evening with friends, arrange within your group who is going to be the designated driver. This person should abstain from alcohol for the night out so they can drive the rest of the group home safely.
- If you live near to good public transport links, take advantage of them. If you’re planning on staying out beyond the last train, tube or bus, make sure you have the phone number for a local taxi firm.
- If you have no option but to drive, stick to zero alcohol beers, soft drinks or fruit-based ‘mocktails’.