Don’t let drink-driving play merry hell with your Christmas

Yes, it’s that time of year again. So let’s eat, drink and be merry. But let’s also leave the car at home.
Close-up of car keys and drink on table.
In 2012, there were 230 deaths due to drink driving – and the number of casualties is higher in November and December as the Christmas party season gets underway.

Over the limit

The law is strict about alcohol limits for drivers. The legal limit is
  • 35 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath
  • 80 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood, or
  • 107 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine.
In Scotland the limit will be 50 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood (and equivalent measures) from December 5 onwards.

Measure for measure

It’s impossible safely to translate the limits into exact measures. Alcohol affects people in different ways and depends on your weight, age, sex and metabolism. The type of alcohol you are drinking, whether or not you have eaten and your stress levels can also affect your ability to tolerate and process the demon drink. In other words, your friend could get behind the wheel after one glass of wine, but you could be over the limit.

Slow reactions

Even a small amount of alcohol can impair your driving ability.
It makes it more difficult to judge distance and speed and our reactions are also slower, which probably explains why a large proportion of drink-drive accidents happen within three miles of the start of the journey.

Easily done

Drink-drivers don’t usually conform to the stereotype of the raging boozer who can barely walk let alone control a car. More often than not the miscreant is the mum who takes the car to her friend’s house, has a few glasses of wine, but decides to risk the short journey home. Or the man who nips into the pub on the way back from work, has one too many, then gets in the car. That’s why most experts recommend that you steer clear of all alcoholic drinks if you are driving. Enjoy a soft drink, non-alcoholic beer or a mocktail instead.

Morning after

And don’t imagine you’ll be sober by the morning, either. It takes time for alcohol to work its way out of your system and no amount of coffee or cold showers will help. Did you know, for example, that you shouldn’t drive for 13 hours after downing a bottle of wine or four pints of lager? If you stop drinking at midnight, you should not therefore get behind the wheel until the afternoon of the following day.

Resist temptation

It’s easier to resist temptation if you plan ahead. Take advantage of any public transport. Carry taxi numbers or book a taxi in advance so you can always get home.
drink driving
Alternatively, you could designate a driver if you are with a group of friends – and make sure they abstain from alcohol.

Harsh penalties

Drinking and driving can have a devastating impact on your life and the lives of others – you could, of course, injure or even kill someone. The penalties if you’re caught driving over the legal alcohol limit are also harsh:
  • at the very least, you will be banned from driving for a minimum of one year
  • you could be fined up to £5,000
  • you will end up with a criminal record
  • your licence will be endorsed for 11 years
  • you could even be sent to prison for up to six months, depending on the severity of the offence.
The police will also process your case just as they would any other criminal or suspected criminal. So, if you fail a roadside breath test, you will be arrested and taken to a police station. You will then undertake further tests and could be charged. It’s certainly no fun.

High price

There are financial implications of drink driving, too.
Image 1 - police stop
Insurers certainly don’t like motorists with previous convictions, so your insurance premium will most likely rocket. You could also lose your job if it involves driving and you could be denied access to other countries, including the USA. The Institute of Advanced Motorists reckons that a drink drive conviction could cost between £20,000 and £50,000 if you take into account fines, legal fees, car insurance and unemployment – and that’s a lot of money for a few glasses of wine. The message is clear. If you are out this festive season, it should be a case of none for the road rather than one for the road.

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