Steer clear of drink drivers

Drink-driving causes devastation and disruption for all concerned – and the vast majority of us understand that fact very well. But it remains a significant problem, especially at this time of year, with many people enjoying Christmas parties and other seasonal events.

Alcohol tends to flow liberally, and people who would normally be horrified at the thought of driving after having a couple of drinks can sometimes find themselves tempted to get behind the wheel.

Then there are the hardcore drink-drivers who either think they’re motoring prowess outweighs the debilitating effects of alcohol, or who simply don’t think they’ll be caught.

Shocking statistics

To get a sense of the problem, we drilled through 14 million quotes obtained through our car insurance site and found that 3.4 million motorists have convictions on their licences. Of that number, some 76,000 have convictions for drink or drug-driving – that’s one in 25 of the convicted population.

It’s likely – it’s impossible to know, of course – that many more people drink and drive but don’t get caught, especially at this time of year. And because drink-drivers are inherently dangerous (alcohol destroys your judgment and slows down your reaction times, no matter who you are) this means the roads are potentially life-threatening places.

The police are leveraging public disgust with the whole notion of drink-driving by inviting members of the public to tell them if they suspect someone of getting behind the wheel while inebriated. Forces nationwide will be cracking down on drink-driving over the next few weeks.

A policeman can’t stop you simply to give you a breathalyser test (unless your erratic driving warrants it). But the police have the power to stop any car at any time for a routine inspection. And if the officer suspects you may have been drinking – there might be alcohol on your breath, your speech might be slurred or your eyes glazed-over – he or she can submit you to a test.

If you are involved in an accident you are likely to be tested – even if you were sitting at a red traffic light and someone crashed into the back of you. So you’ve done nothing wrong in a strict motoring sense, expect that you’ve got too much alcohol in your blood – and this will be enough to earn you a conviction.

So what are the penalties?

If you’re convicted of drink or drug-driving, you’ll get an automatic minimum one-year ban – and there is no maximum. You could also be jailed for six-months and be hit with a fine of up to £5,000.

Beyond these immediate penalties, you’ll also see a massive hike in your car insurance premiums. You could see an 80% increase – once you get your licence back, of course – or the premium could even double. For many, that could make the difference between being able to afford your policy or not. And, of course, it is illegal to drive without insurance.

In addition, we should keep at the forefront of our minds the horrendous consequences of the accidents caused by drink and drug-driving in terms of death and injury to innocent pedestrians and other road users. The true cost of drink and drug-driving is counted in broken bodies and broken lives.

It’s also worth remembering that drug-driving is not restricted to illegal drugs. If you are taking prescription drugs that impair your driving ability, you will still be convicted.

Drink-driving hotspots

Our research at MoneySupermarket shows that south and mid-Wales and Scotland are drink-drive hotspots in regional terms, with towns such as Harrogate and Hereford topping the list for towns with a high rate of convictions.

The thinking is that, in largely rural areas, where people are dependent on their cars because of a lack of public transport, there is a greater temptation to drive home from the pub or a friend’s house after dinner.

We also found that the conviction rate is lowest in London, where there is an extensive, round-the-clock public transport network.

Who’s drinking and driving?

The research also revealed male drivers are the most likely to have a conviction on their licence for driving under the influence.  A further breakdown of the searches reveals those aged 20 – 29 years old had the highest conviction rate.

Looking at the details of drivers with higher proportions of drink or drug-related convictions, we found the top 10 list of occupations is dominated by typically male and blue-collar trades,  with scaffolders coming top followed by roofers, groundworkers, bricklayers and labourers.

A lot of these roles involve early starts and many will be getting up for work and behind the wheel with too much alcohol in their system from the night before. This is something every motorist should bear in mind when they’re drinking in the evening before needing to drive the next day.

The same applies to those drinking at lunchtime or in the afternoon who may then be driving in the early evening. You could easily have a positive reading for alcohol in your body several hours after you stopped drinking, and even if you had only drunk a relatively small amount.

Professions with the lowest proportions of drink or drug-related convictions include paramedics and driving instructors. Seeing paramedics second in this list makes sense when they often have to deal with the aftermath of drink and drug related road traffic accidents – that’s surely enough to put anyone off breaking the law.

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