Every year, people who drink and drive are responsible for hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries on Great Britain’s roads (Department for Transport statistics, Aug 2019).
Whilst the vast majority of us believe ourselves to be law-abiding, safe and sensible behind the wheel, the sad fact is that there are still some among us who think it’s ok to have ‘just a couple’ and then drive. Too many of us who get caught up in the festive spirit and, despite our best intentions, end up having a second drink through fear of missing out on the fun, or because persistent friends and colleagues insist that “Another one won’t do any harm”. In this situation, it’s often easy to just have one or two to feel part of the crowd.
Even one drink can be enough to affect us and our behaviour, depending on a number of factors such as our size, gender and what we’ve had to eat or how much we’ve slept. But what effect can it have on our driving?
But what effect can it have on our driving?
Even the smallest amount of alcohol can affect your driving, in a number of ways:
- Reactions – these can be slowed, meaning you are unable to respond to the unexpected as quickly as when you’ve had nothing to drink, so will take longer to stop if necessary
- Vision – Alcohol can slow how your eyes work, causing blurred vision, meaning you miss important things around you
- Concentration – Alcohol may reduce the attention you’re able to give to your driving, and may cause drowsiness to occur
- Tracking – Alcohol can decrease your ability to judge the car’s position on the road, or the location of other vehicles, the centre line, or road signs
- Comprehension – Alcohol can hinder your ability to make rational decisions and to judge distances and speed. It can also make it harder for you to understand what road signs say and what else is going on around you
- Co-ordination – Reduced eye/hand/foot co-ordination can be caused by drinking too much alcohol, meaning that you are not in full control of the vehicle
Does this sound like you should be getting behind the wheel, after having anything to drink at all?
What does the law say?
There are strict alcohol limits for UK drivers.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the legal alcohol limit for drivers is:
- 35 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath
- 80 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood
- 107 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine
What are the consequences?
The gov.uk website outlines the strict penalties and additional consequences you could face if you are convicted of drink driving.
The Institute of Advanced Motorists calculate that a drink drive conviction could cost between £20,000 – £50,000 as a result of fines, solicitors fees, increase in car insurance and loss of job.
This year, West Yorkshire Police’s drink / drug campaign focuses on the consequences of drink and drug driving, using the hashtag #WYPTheCost. More details and updates throughout December can be found by following them on twitter @WYP_RPU.
So, what can you do?
This year we are urging all of you to leave the car at home and make alternative arrangements if you are planning on drinking when attending festive celebrations. The fact is that there is no safe amount to drink if you are planning on driving, other than zero.
The safest option is to make alternative transport arrangements or if this isn’t possible, then stick to the soft drinks. Check out your public transport options for West Yorkshire here.
When out with others:
- Don’t feel pressured by friends or colleagues to drink when you’ve decided to drive.
- If you really can’t face standing up to others just yet, then make an excuse; tell them it’s a rum and coke in your glass instead of just a soft drink and discretely disappear when they’re offering to get another round in.
- If there’s a risk of you having ‘one for the road’, leave the car at home. Do you have a family member or friend who would be willing to pick you up at the end of your night out? You could repay the favour when they need it.
- Make alternative arrangements to avoid the temptation.
Don’t forget the morning after!
Another important thing to consider is whether you could still be over the limit when getting behind the wheel the ‘morning after’.
“The penalties for being caught drink driving the morning after are exactly the same as at any other time – it’s no excuse to say you thought you were fine to drive because of the length of time since your last drink.” Simon Rawlings – Road Safety GB
On average it takes around one hour per unit for alcohol to pass through your body (although it can vary greatly depending on a number of factors). So, if you’ve been drinking the night before, you could end up being impaired and over the limit the next morning as you go about your everyday activities such as driving to work, doing the school run, popping to the shops or going to see friends.
Use this free ‘morning after calculator’ to give you a rough idea of how long it might take for your body to process alcohol and for you to be legally safe to drive after a drinking session.
And finally, if you’re not drinking, but driving:
Over the festive season, there are likely to be increased numbers of party goers out on the street. They may be affected by drinking in all of the ways mentioned above, and their judgements may not be as sharp as they could be. If you’re driving around busy areas, make sure you take extra care to look out for people who are drinking and whose behaviour may be unpredictable.
You can also help by making sure that those who are drinking get home safely. If you know you definitely won’t be drinking, offer to be ‘Des’ and give others a lift.
THINK! provides road safety information for all road users. Their aim is to encourage safer behaviour to reduce the number of people killed and injured on our roads every year. Further information about drink driving, including their past campaigns, can be found on their website.
One of our favourite clips shows a compilation of drink driving campaigns from over the last 50 years.