Think! Don’t drink and drive this Christmas

Think! Don’t drink and drive this Christmas

Posted by

Kevin Blackmore

December 2018

With the festive season upon us, motorists are being warned about the pitfalls of drink-driving with police forces across the UK carrying out extra patrols and roadside checks – as part of the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s (NPCC) annual festive drink and drug drive campaign.

Christmas is always the busiest time of year in terms of drivers being breathalysed by the police, with drivers nearly three times more likely to be breathalysed in December than in other months of the year.

Home Office figures show that police forces across England and Wales conducted 63,648 roadside breath tests last December, with the number of motorists found to be over the drink drive limit, including those who refused the test, was 4,816 – a failure rate of nearly 8%.

Despite 30 years of drink drive education and enforcement, some 200-plus people are still killed in drink drive accidents every year and more than 70,000 people are still caught drink driving annually.

At the same time, statistics released by the Department for Transport (DfT) show an increase in casualties and incidents caused by drink driving, while there has been no improvement in drink driving related deaths since 2010.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the alcohol limit for drivers is 80 milligrams (mg) of alcohol per 100 millilitres (ml) of blood, 35mg per 100ml of breath or 107mg per 100ml of urine. This is the highest in Europe.

In Scotland the drink drive limit is lower as, at the end of 2014, the alcohol limit for drivers north of the border was reduced to 50mg of alcohol in every 100ml of blood and 22mg of alcohol per 100ml of breath. There was a 12.5% decrease in drink-drive offences in Scotland in the first nine months of the new limit.

In most other European countries, the limit is lower than the UK and in line with Scotland, typically 50mg per 100ml of blood or less.

What are the penalties?

Anyone caught over the legal alcohol limit when driving or attempting to drive will be banned from driving for at least 12 months, or three years if convicted twice in 10 years, and face an unlimited fine and up to six months in prison.

All these factors – the length of imprisonment, period of disqualification, size of fine and related penalty points – depend on the severity of the offence.

Being in charge of a vehicle whilst over the legal limit or unfit through drink could result in three months in prison plus a fine of up to £2,500 and a possible driving ban.

The penalty for refusing to provide a specimen of breath, blood or urine for analysis is a maximum of six months in prison, an unlimited fine and a driving ban of at least 12 months.

Meanwhile, causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine and a minimum two year driving ban. There is also a requirement to pass an extended driving test before the offender is able to drive legally again.

An endorsement for a drink-driving offence remains on a driving licence for 11 years, so it is 11 years before a convicted driver will have a “clean” licence again.

A conviction for drink driving also means:

  • car insurance costs will increase significantly
  • if you drive for work, your employer will see your conviction on your licence
  • you may have trouble travelling to countries like the USA

Drink drive survey

According to a new survey, four out of five of motorists think there should be stiffer penalties for drink driving, with more than half strongly in favour.

A survey of 2,000 motorists for AlcoSense Breathalysers found that 43% of drivers supported a lower or zero tolerance alcohol limit, while more than a third (35%) agreed that fines should be calculated as a percentage of the driver’s income.

Just under a third said that an ‘interlock’, which stops the car from starting if alcohol is detected on the driver’s breath, should be fitted on the cars of all motorists convicted of drink-driving.

Nearly 30% thought the frequency of breath testing by police should be increased and that random testing should be brought in.

A similar number said they supported an even more draconian measure – immediate confiscation of a car if the driver is over the limit, with the car then sold to fund road safety campaigns and care for road accident victims.

Other steps included the compulsory carrying of a personal breathalyser in the car (24%), and a ‘name and shame’ public register on the internet of all drink drivers together with their photos (20%).


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