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Festive periods such as Christmas and New Year offer a great opportunity for people to celebrate and mark yet another milestone, but such times also carry a car insurance risk for those who flout the rules regarding drinking and driving. Despite government efforts to tackle drink-driving, it remains a problem on UK roads as highlighted by the thousands of people caught getting behind the wheel every year after consuming more than the permitted limit of alcohol.
In 1966, the number of drink-driving convictions was just under 10,000, with 9,432 men and 158 women found guilty of breaking the law. This increased to a high of 105,000 in 1988, with men accounting for most of the convictions (99,308) compared to 5,719 women. Although the total has slightly fallen since, drink-drive convictions remain high.
Drink-driving: not a victimless crime
Drink-drivers consistently leave a trail of accidents, injuries and fatalities. There were 280 deaths, 1,290 serious injuries and 9,990 total casualties directly related to drink-driving incidents in 2011, according to the Department for Transport. And young motorists (20 to 24-year-olds) failed more breath tests than any other age group. In fact, this age group is consistently over-represented in drink-drive casualty figures.
But not all those who are caught set out to break the law. Some well-intentioned drivers who do not think they are breaking the law sometimes get caught because they are still over the legal limit by the time they get behind the wheel the next morning. The Department for Transport states that last year more than 400 people failed breath tests - or refused to provide a specimen to police - between 6:00am and 11:00am, which is more than the number of those caught in the hour before or after midnight.
Drink-driving conviction can be costly
A criminal record is not the only thing you will be left with if you get a drink-driving conviction. You also risk getting points on your driver's licence, a fine of up to £5,000, a minimum 12-month driving ban, which can be tough to deal with if you need to drive to work, and you could even get a prison sentence. Finding an car insurance provider that is willing to cover you following a conviction is also bound to be more difficult and, should you get one, there will be a long-term financial penalty - you can kiss goodbye to getting cheap car insurance.
According to research by MoneySupermarket.com, convicted drink-drivers could see the cost of their car insurance premiums jump by as much as 150% on average for men and 133% for women. For example, a 30-year-old male driver could see his motor insurance premiums increase from £472 a year, to £1,175 on average. This is something you may already be familiar with if you have been affected by a driving conviction. It will be difficult to identify insurers who will offer you cheap cover, but using MoneySupermarket's car insurance comparison service can make your life easier. The service compares car insurance quotes and policies from more than 125 UK insurers, including mainstream and niche providers. In just a few clicks, you can find the right policy at the cheapest car insurance quotes.
Drink responsibly – or not at all
In the meantime, it is worth remembering that everyone's body reacts differently to alcohol, so what may appear to be within the permitted limit may actually be above it when you're tested. Factors including gender, age, weight and your rate of metabolism all have a bearing on how you react to alcohol. Rather than trying to second-guess whether you are under the limit, it is better not to drink at all, removing the risk of getting convicted, or worse, causing an accident that may turn out to be fatal.
With reaction times, co-ordination and judgment proven to be considerably impaired following alcohol consumption, the best strategy is to treat drinking and driving as separate activities. If you do one, don’t do the other. Leave your car at home and get a taxi back if you're going to drink. After all, the fare will be significantly cheaper than what it would cost if you were caught and convicted for drink-driving. If you don't want to spend on a taxi, then consider having a designated driver who will not consume any alcohol during your partying.