December 5, 2016

Warning over softening attitudes to drink driving

Survey suggests drivers may becoming more lax over drink-driving rules

As the festive season fast approaches, new research suggests a “softening” of attitudes towards drink driving.

According to the 2016 RAC Report on Motoring, 6% of motorists surveyed admitted to driving above the limit over the last year, up from 3% in 2012. Meanwhile, the number of people who were certain they had not driven while over the limit was found to have dropped from 89% in 2012 to 80% in 2016.

Some experts have raised concerns that the message that the seriousness of the consequences of drink-driving may have become diluted over time.

The RAC feels this focus needs to remain so that accident rates as a result of driving under the influence of alcohol do not start rising on a regular basis.

And the motoring organisation would like to see a lower drink-drive limit introduced in England and Wales, bringing it in line with Scotland and many other European countries.

Drink driving tests

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, with this year  likely to be no different from last.

However, this increase in police activity is not without due cause. On average 3,000 people are killed or seriously injured each year in drink drive collisions. And nearly one in six of all deaths on the road involve drivers who are over the legal alcohol limit.

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.

Meanwhile, the alcohol limit for drivers in Scotland is significantly lower at 50 milligrams of alcohol in every 100 millilitres of blood and 22 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath.

The Scottish Government said they had changed the drink drive limit to bring Scotland in line with most other European countries, to save lives and make Scotland’s roads safer.

In most other European countries, the limit is generally lower, typically at around 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 drink drivers is as follows:

  • 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.

The effect of 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.

As a result, almost 1 in 5 of the 90,000 drivers convicted of drink driving each year are on their way to or are 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 penalties?

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 to 11 penalty driving 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.

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.

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, an unlimited fine, 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?

Campaigners say that Britain is still failing to adequately tackle its drink drive problem, and that the number of drivers killed remains far too high.

So what advice can you give your drivers 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 drinks.
  • Remember every night out does not have to involve a bar or pub – book a table at a restaurant or try other ideas like the cinema or theatre.