Social acceptance or anti-social behaviour plays a big part in how the world changes and evolves over time; there are many things that were once deemed acceptable, or at the very least, excusable, and drink driving was just something that many people did, despite it being illegal, but the law only came into force in January 1966.
Today, drink driving is about as heinous a crime as you can get when it comes to motoring, and rightly so. Despite the shift in social acceptance, there are still a number of drivers who believe that they make for better drivers when under the influence – over 70,000 motorists are convicted each year of drink driving related offences.
The road safety charity Brake is calling for a significant cut to the blood alcohol limit for motorists after figures released by the Department for Transport (DfT) have shown an increase in the number of road traffic collisions in the last year, as a result from driving whilst drunk.
Comparing figures for the 1970s opposed to 2018, it’s clear that things have changed – in 1979, there were 1,640 deaths attributable to drink driving, in 2016, that figure was just 240, but that’s a 7 percent increase from 2015.
It could be argued that the rise is a statistical anomaly – figures have remained fairly static since 2010, but the bigger picture is that there were approximately 9,040 serious injuries or deaths due to drink driving, and whatever the figure, is there really any excuse for it?
Reduced blood alcohol
Currently, the law states that the ‘acceptable’ limit is 80mg of alcohol to 100ml of blood, and due to other factors such as weight, sex, metabolism, stress levels and even the amount of food eaten, there are no hard and fast rules as to what that constitutes in terms of actual drinks consumed.
It has been shown that drivers with a blood alcohol level of between 50 – 80mg are at least twice as likely to be involved in an accident as those with no alcohol, and up to six times more likely to be involved in a fatality. It’s for this reason that Brake are calling for the limit to be reduced to just 20mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.
Joshua Harris, Director of Campaigns for Brake said: “Current regulations give a false impression that it’s safe to drink and drive, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The current laws lack clarity, are badly understood, and give the green light that mixing alcohol with driving is acceptable, it isn’t”.
There are two separate charges relating to drink driving – being in charge of a vehicle while above the legal limit or unfit through drink, and driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit or unfit through drink.
Being in charge of a vehicle while drunk could see you landed with up to three months imprisonment, a £2,500 fine and a potential ban, whereas actually driving (or attempting to) could get you up to six months imprisonment, a minimum one-year driving ban, and an unlimited fine. If you’re caught twice within a ten-year period, the driving ban will be for three years.
In 2010, Sir Peter North was commissioned by the Government to conduct a review of the drink and drug driving laws, and amongst many recommendations, one, in particular, stands out:
The North Review made the recommendation to lower the drink driving limit to 50mg of alcohol, believing that it could save ‘a significant number of lives’ – at least 43 per year. But the then Government concluded that “improving enforcement is likely to have more impact on the most dangerous drink-drivers than lowering the drink-drive limit”, and they didn’t believe that it would be cost-effective.
They did, however, make some minor changes to help stop drivers ‘getting away with it’ – removing the right for a blood test when the evidential breath test was lower than 40% over the legal limit. It was believed that the delay in getting the blood test could allow for time for the alcohol to leave the body.
There really is no acceptable excuse for drink driving, if you’re on a night out with friends, make sure there is a designated driver, or use alternative forms of transport. Equally, if you find yourself in an emergency situation, you should try and find someone else to drive, or again, find an alternative method of transportation.
The penalties for driving while drunk are harsh, but they aren’t just legal – along with the inconvenience and large fine, there is a social stigma, increased insurance cost, perhaps even a threat to your livelihood – is it really worth it?
What do you think about reducing the limit? Should the penalties be harsher? Is it practical and fair to reduce the limit? How will it impact the pub trade? Let us know in the comments.