Towns and City Centres have switched on the Christmas lights to herald the start of the festive season and revellers will soon enjoy celebratory drinks with friends, family and colleagues.
The strong message against drinking and driving will have been heard by everyone many times over. You would think that by now only an unreachable few will deliberately flout the law. On this issue it is certainly true that some people you just can’t reach (failure to communicate is not the reason!).
Obstinate lawbreakers aside, it is probably accurate to say that the overwhelming majority of people intend to let their hair down responsibly and would not dream of risking putting anyone in danger.
This article is intended as a cautionary reminder of two particular risks which the well intentioned might still unwittingly create.
The ‘morning after’ drink drivers
The average “work’s do” is held in a restaurant, hotel or bar. Often guests drive themselves to the venue and either book overnight accommodation or take a taxi home, with the intention of collecting the car the following day.
Having made those sensible plans, the guest often unintentionally drink drives their way home the next morning purely because the volume of alcohol consumed has not left their system.
This probably happens due to a combination of two factors. The first is that most people underestimate the time it takes for a single unit of alcohol to pass through the body. Even if that is understood, the second difficulty is keeping count of those units as the night rolls along. The tally is not made any easier by the fact that drinks come in different strengths and different sizes.
Whilst there are several factors which affect the level of alcohol in a particular person’s bloodstream, the following can be used as a broad a rule of thumb:
- One pint of the least strong beer (3.5%) = 2 units.
- 200ml glass of 12% wine (1/5 of a standard bottle) = 3.2 units
Most bars routinely offer a ‘large’ glass of wine (250ml) and many lagers weigh in at 5% alcohol content or stronger. One drink every half hour between say 8pm-12am should see you off the road the next morning. Carry on drinking into the small hours and you should write off the whole of the next day no matter how bright and alert you might think you feel.
At this time of year traffic police officers are especially vigilant. Police forces across the UK run Christmas campaigns and they are on the lookout for the morning after drink drivers. At a recent regional meeting of the RoadPeace charity, which I attended, the police representative made it clear that in the mornings they will be monitoring drivers emerging from the car parks of hotels, restaurants and events. The police are not trying to catch you out. They are trying to stop a tragedy from happening and save lives.
Drunk pedestrians can be a danger to themselves and others
Those drinkers who sensibly leave their cars and make their way on foot or public transport have taken a step in the right direction. What harm can they do? Nobody ever gets run over by a person swaying unsteadily along the pavement do they? We actually seem to view those types as harmless figures of comedy.
When it comes to risk creation, the tipsy pedestrian is not nearly out of the proverbial woods. Regardless of whether they are a pedestrian or a driver, alcohol reduces a person’s ability to judge distance and speed. A drunken pedestrian is far more likely to step out into the path of an oncoming vehicle leaving it no time to take evasive action. Alcohol reduces a person’s ability to balance increasing the likelihood of stumbling into the road.
It is wrong to dismissively suppose the drunken casualty only has himself to blame. That might be true but provides no comfort at all to the person’s grieving family. Also spare a thought for the blameless driver who nonetheless has to come to terms with having a part in the tragedy.
There is one other thing – drug driving!
Since everyone knows the risk created by drink drivers, it must go without saying that driving under the influence of drugs is universally understood to be a taboo. Who would not condemn the young clubber who drives home after a night fuelled with illicit pills and powders?
What then do we make of those prescription medicines supplied with boxes marked, “do not operate heavy machinery”? What is a car if not a heavy machine? No doubt like many morning after drink drivers, the average prescription drug driver has overlooked the obvious. The illegal drug driver on the other hand is cynically taking his chances. Both are in the wrong.
Taking reported sources at face value, arrests for drug driving are on the rise. Maybe this increase in arrests is explained by a wider use of road side testing by the police (rather than increased prevalence of drug driving). Hopefully the increased risk of getting caught will soon be recognised and will act as a deterrent.
Nobody’s Christmas is ever spoiled by not drinking excessively
According to NHS data for the decade between 2006 and 2016, it is estimated that 9,050 people were killed in Road Traffic Collisions when at least one driver was over the drink and drug drive limit. Add to that the intoxicated pedestrians who have been killed and also the many thousands who escape death but do not escape life changing injury. We are talking about huge numbers of family members for whom every Christmas will have been and will continue to be devastated by the effects of alcohol and drugs.
As with most things, a little advanced thought and preparation makes life easier. Easier is usually happier. Here are a few simple if unoriginal suggestions to keep yourself and others from harm and from unhappiness:
- If you intend to drive in the morning after a night in the bar, be very sparing in your consumption of alcohol and stop early. Keep a proper count of those units and calculate the hours very carefully. Treat yourself to a lie in.
- To remove any doubt over whether you can drive legally, home breathalyser machines can be purchased quite cheaply. Think of this as an investment in something you hope you will not need to fall back on – rather like an insurance policy.
- If you are intending to leave your car, a taxi home is much safer than walking.
- If you are intending to take a taxi home book it in advance to avoid the possibility of later finding none available, leaving you to take your chances with a risky walk home (or worse still reaching the drunken conclusion that your only option is to drive after all).
If you need legal advice about injury caused in a Road Traffic Collision
The Serious Injury team at Birchall Blackburn Law are specialist personal injury solicitors. We support and obtain compensation for the victims of road traffic collisions and their families.
We are proud to support and promote leading road safety charities such as RoadPeace and Aftermath. We are also proud to sponsor and work with Headway and the Spinal Injury Association. Our serious injury team is accredited by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers. We act on ‘No Win No Fee’ terms. If you would like our help to pursue a claim, please do not hesitate to contact Robert Jones for advice without any charge or obligation. Call 0800 988 1548 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
I will also take this opportunity of wishing one and all a very happy Christmas and the very best for 2019.