Even while authorities have made great headway in reducing instances of drink-driving in the UK, there is still much work to be done. Recent figures from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) show that more than 70,000 people are caught drink-driving each year. ROSPA figures from 2016 also show that 240 people were killed, 1260 seriously injured with more than 9000 additional casualties as a consequence of drink driving accidents.
Despite recent relative success in tackling drink-driving in the UK, there is still work to be done with a number of ongoing initiatives.
- Lower drink drive limit
Statistical evidence shows that those with a blood alcohol reading of 50 mg/80 mg are between 2 and 2.5 times more likely to be involved in an accident, compared to sober drivers. Drunk drivers are also six times more likely to be involved in a fatal road traffic accident. It is therefore no surprise to learn that the UK government and devolved UK parliaments are constantly monitoring the drink drive limit which is slowly falling.
- Roadside breath tests
The most obvious way to check for drivers under the influence of alcohol is by means of a roadside breath test. While there were just over 463,000 roadside breath tests in 2016 this figure has varied dramatically over the years. The introduction of more accurate roadside breath testing equipment was a major step forward in tackling this serious issue.
• Educating motorists
Over many years we have seen a deluge of statistics regarding drink-driving, accidents and fatalities. It is only recently that the authorities have realised that educating motorists about the impact of alcohol on their reaction times is as important as cold hard statistics. Understanding how the brain works, how alcohol impairs judgement and the increased potential of accidents is starting to hit home. Relatively graphic TV adverts have also opened the eyes of many motorists to the consequences of drink-driving.
• Random breath tests
At this moment in time the police need to have a “reason” to stop a motorist/rider in order to carry out a roadside breath test. There is evidence to suggest that random breath testing will not only pick up additional drink drivers but it will also act as another preventative measure. There is some conflict between a motorist’s human rights, discrimination and random breath testing but it is highly likely it will become more commonplace in years to come.
Driving the Next Day
As drink-driving limits continue to fall across the UK the number of drivers failing breath tests the following day continues to rise. This issue needs to be addressed by the education of motorists with regards to alcohol, its long-term impact and the degree of impairment it brings. The festive period, with Christmas parties and other seasonal activities, is a time of the year when the police are at their most active. Historically, festive drink drive campaigns were not advertised in the media but things are very different nowadays.
• Sobering up
The idea that black coffee and cold showers will in any way reduce the time needed to sober up is a common myth. In reality you will only sober up once the alcohol has been removed from your bloodstream which is simply a case of time. Road Safety Scotland suggests that those consuming either 4 pints of strong lager or one bottle of wine will not be safe to drive for at least 12 hours. The general advice seems to be to abstain from driving on the following day after excessive consumption of alcohol.
Penalties for Offenders
The UK is widely perceived to have some of the toughest drink-driving penalties in the world although this is not the full story. Over recent years we have seen many high profile drink-driving prosecutions although the authorities are also keen to educate drivers to ensure they do not re-offend. Aside from incarceration for serious drink-driving offences there are other options including:
• Disqualification from driving
The most common and effective deterrent in the battle against drink-driving is the extension of disqualification periods through the courts. We have also seen a growing number of instances where a driving ban is administered as part of bail conditions prior to a court hearing. The cumulative impact of more stringent regulations is helping reduce occasions where motorist reoffend.
• Seizing vehicles
There is growing support for the seizure of vehicles for those found guilty of repeat drink-driving offences. This is now commonplace in the UK for vehicles which are found to be unroadworthy and potentially dangerous. It might well be that seizing and crushing the vehicles of repeat drink-drive offenders may focus more minds.
• Rehabilitation courses
Rehabilitation and retesting courses are also becoming more commonplace as a means of tackling the long-term problem of drink-driving. This allows perpetrators to receive direct education on the consequences of their actions and the degree to which alcohol can impair their judgement and response times. In many ways, rehabilitation and retesting of drink-drive offenders is proving to be more effective than traditional penalties.
There is no doubt that the UK has enjoyed relative success in the ongoing campaign to reduce instances of drink-driving and fatal/non-fatal accidents. The threat of incarceration together with re-education has proved to be a very positive mix. There is no excuse for drink-driving; there are adverts on the TV and a prominent police presence during high-risk periods such as Christmas. Remember, driving while under the influence of alcohol not only puts you at risk but also passengers, other motorists and pedestrians.