Police step up Christmas drink-drive crackdown

Police forces nationwide will be stepping up patrols as they launch their annual festive season blitz against drink-driving and drivers have been urged to make safety their priority.

The advice comes as official figures show there has been no decline in the number of people killed through drink-driving in recent years.

What’s more, it has been calculated that a drink-drive conviction costs the average driver nearly £50,000 when all the immediate costs and longer-term consequences are taken into account.

A total of 250 people were killed in the UK through drink-driving in 2017, up 9% on 2016, when there were 230 deaths. It was also the highest number since 2009 when 340 people died, according to the latest data from the Department for Transport. Additionally, 1,380 people were seriously injured in drink-drive related crashes in 2017, the highest figure since 2009 (1,500).

Road safety and breakdown organisation GEM Motoring Assist is urging party-goers not to take any risks with alcohol by taking one or two simple steps and remove the temptation to get behind the wheel at the end of an evening out: Agreeing a designated driver, pre-booking taxis or arranging to stay the night at a friend’s house.

The legal drink-drive limit in England and Wales is 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100ml of breath. In Scotland the limit reduced in December 2014 and is now 50 milligrams. The penalty for a first drink-driving offence is a minimum 12-month ban, a fine of up to £2,500, and a prison sentence of up to six months. Refusal to provide a specimen carries the same penalty.

GEM road safety office Neil Worth said: “It is absolutely not acceptable to drive after drinking alcohol, and the figures show that more people are dying as a result of someone’s choice to drink-drive than at any time in the past decade. Don’t ever take a risk with drink-driving.”

Alcohol myth-busters

  • I’ll be OK after a good night’s sleep – not necessarily. Between 15 and 20% failed breath tests are from people who get behind the wheel the morning after drinking alcohol.
  • One drink means one ‘unit’ of alcohol – wrong, so counting the glasses you’ve had at the pub, at a party or at home is not a reliable indicator of how much alcohol you have consumed.
  • Coffee will sober me up after a few drinks – wrong. You may feel more alert, as coffee is a stimulant and alcohol is a depressant. But you’ll still have the same amount of alcohol in your system, however much coffee you drink.
  • Eating a heavy meal means I can’t get drunk – wrong. Food doesn’t prevent alcohol from being absorbed… it can slow the process down, but you’ll still have the alcohol in your system.
  • I won’t be impaired until I’ve had a lot to drink – wrong. Even small amounts will impair your judgement. Impairment starts with your very first drink.
  • I’ll see how I feel later before deciding whether to drive or not – wrong: plan early how you’re going to get home. Decide where you can safely leave your car, book taxis, or agree that you’ll stay on soft drinks. We tend not to make our wisest decisions when we’re a little merry – or worse.
  • I can avoid court and go on a course if I get caught, as it would be a first offence – wrong. There’s a mandatory 12-month ban, plus a hefty fine and a criminal record. Estimates show that a drink-drive conviction costs the average motorist nearly £50,000 when all the immediate costs and longer-term consequences are taken into account.

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