posted 6 years ago

Safety Charity Wants Zero-Alcohol Drivers

Motorists should not drive with “any” alcohol in their systems, argues road safety charity Brake.

Motorists should not drive with “any” alcohol in their systems, argues road safety charity Brake. Why? Because even small amounts of alcohol can affect “reaction times, judgement and co-ordination”. Clearly bad news. Furthermore, it is “impossible” for drivers to assess their impairment because it “creates a false sense of confidence” meaning that motorists are “more inclined to take risks”. The road safety charity also argues there is “no way of knowing exactly how long it takes to sober up” but - as a rough guide - “allow at least one hour to absorb alcohol and at least one hour for each unit consumed”. Let us consider their example. If three pints of strong lager contain nine units of alcohol and a motorist stops drinking at 11pm, it could take until at least 9am to be fully sober. It could, however, take longer depending on weight, gender, etc. Brake's key message is therefore:

- Never drink any amount of alcohol if you’re driving.
- Never drink if you’re driving early the next morning.
- Plan ahead to make sure you can get home safely when going out for the night (by) using public transport, booking a taxi, or having a designated driver who sticks to soft drinks.
- Take responsibility for others: never buy a drink for someone who is driving.

During 2011 in the UK, one in seven road deaths occurred when motorists were over the legal limit, according to Department for Transport figures. Some of these were the mornings after heavy drinking sessions when motorists might have assumed the alcohol had dispersed. As such, in 2011, The West Mercia Police arrested 55% of its drink-drivers between 5am and midday. Also, 13% of last year's national arrests were during this seven-hour period. These facts came courtesy of a freedom of information request by Autoglass, and are based on the responses of twenty-six of the forty-three Police Services.

According to Brake, UK drink-drive casualty figures decreased significantly during the eighties but rose between 1993 and 2002 (14,980 to 20,140). These included deaths, serious injuries, and minor injuries. The figure then fell to 9,990 in 2011 but drink-driving remains, Brake argue, “one of the biggest killers”. According to Home Office figures from 2002, men received nine out of ten convictions for dangerous driving while under the influence of alcohol. Furthermore, The Department for Transport has revealed that those aged seventeen to twenty-four have the highest level of alcohol related incidents per-distance travelled. A Brake survey of one-thousand motorists also proved that fifty per-cent have driven with at least some alcohol in their systems within the past twelve months, and that twenty-eight per-cent have consumed a significant amount then driven the following morning. As such, a concerning percentage might have been unsafe to drive.

The legal limit in the UK is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. The consequences of exceeding this can be severe. As such a drunk in charge of a vehicle faces up to three months imprisonment, a £2,500 fine, and a ban. This offence relates to those in or around vehicles with the intention of driving. In contrast, a motorist who drives or attempts to drive can receive up to six months imprisonment, a £5,000 fine, and a twelve month ban. This increases to three years if it is the second conviction within a decade. Most seriously, someone who causes death by dangerous driving while under the influence could receive a fourteen year prison sentence, an unlimited fine, and a two year ban. Furthermore, failing to provide a breath, blood or urine sample for analysis can lead to a six month sentence, a £5,000 fine, and a twelve month ban. Better be safe and steer-off booze, then.

I never drink before driving,but if the limit was zero many people would be prosecuted because of a medicine or chocolate etc. they had taken unknowingly had a tiny amount of alcohol init

If the legal limit was set at ZERO no one would have to guess and we would ALL be a lot safer. Smoking while driving should also be banned!

Let's get a grip on reality and keep things in proportion. BRAKE are claiming that if I have (say) half a pint of average-strength beer, then from being a safe driver I'm suddenly worse than that elderly chap I saw today driving coolly through a red traffic light. Or the one I saw yesterday dithering between two lanes and then driving through a red light (just missing two children). Or the one who pulled out in front of me last week. I don't doubt that my reaction time is diminished by the half pint (or by what's left of the three pints I had the previous night). But the fact is that it has NOT taken me anywhere near the level where I'm a danger on the roads - and isn't that supposed to be what we're after? Or is it really about some sort of teetotallers' campaign to cut drinking? Because it seems based on the false premise that ANY amount of alcohol suddenly makes you unsafe. I say "suddenly makes you unsafe", not "reduces your reaction time". If BRAKE was just saying that a half-pint reduces your reaction time a little but admits that you could still be within safe parameters, then the article wouldn't bang on about drink-drive prosecutions and accidents. So BRAKE can't be saying that; they are saying that even a slight residual amount of alcohol is enough to make you totally unsafe. How so, when reaction times and judgement vary so much in sober drivers? Is "Stig", after half a pint, less sharp than reckless old Mrs. Miggins who only drives to the shops once a month? But who would be prosecuted under a "zero tolerance" law? Personally, I think that if such factors are seen as so important, then people should be tested every year for their sharpness behind the wheel. Alcohol in small amounts is a red herring if you're interested in safety. I suspect it's just a convenient test, and the campaign is driven by those who think that drinking is bad for you and want any excuse to reduce it. I won't be supporting BRAKE, whoever they are as I don't believe that they have road safety in mind.


Nonsense. the limit is quite reasonable and driving a requirement to drive with zero is ridiculous. BRAKE need to get a grip of reality.

Martin Hedger : Trouble with that view its actually quite offensive to those who don't drink for religious or other reasons. It can also give a false sense of being ok if just below the limit or you might go over the limit an hour later!

We should follow the French example, self test using a government approved Alcohol Meter. In France it is law to have 1 (if electronic) or 2 units if disposable so your passenger can also check if he needs to drive. I use mine all the time so know when its safe.