Don’t make ‘drink drive’ this year’s Christmas odyssey!

It’s that time of year when my company, In Your Defence Ltd, has asked me to provide a missive about drink drive. This can only mean one thing; we’re approaching Christmas…

Rather unfortunately for many, having a ‘merry’ Christmas will have grave implications for them. It will probably start by getting carried away at a meal or party, resulting in just one more drink. Then that short drive home being interrupted by the flashing of blue lights and all that follows.

The motoring lawyers at In Your Defence Ltd and more specifically the company’s motoring law department, M23LAW, are experts in representing clients accused of all road traffic offences, including drink drive.    

Drink drive is not a new problem. The first laws on the subject were introduced in 1872. Back then, the punishment was a maximum forty shillings and up to a month’s imprisonment. Subsequent legislation, most notably the Road Safety Act 1967, Road Traffic Act 1988, Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 and the Road Traffic Act 1991 has reflected the growing social unacceptability of jumping behind the wheel after drinking. This is also something that the BBC recently reported on

But has this legislation been effective? Well, Department for Transport statistics suggest so. When records began in 1979, the estimated number of casualties from reported drink drive incidents was 31,430. That number has gradually been reducing and in 2012 was 9,930

There is a strong argument that the 2012 figure is still far too high and that more should be done. In Scotland, recent proposals have included lowering the drink drive limit from 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg. This proposal might be implemented as early as next year. The Scottish proposal would bring the country into line with the majority of Europe. It would, however, create disparity with England where the higher limit would remain.

What I am about to say might be regarded as a bit of a political hot potato. But how about we follow the example set by the Scottish and reconsider reducing our limit too? Or maybe, we could go further and exercise a zero tolerance approach?

It may sound odd to hear a defence solicitor advocating a reduced limit or zero tolerance approach. I am of the view that a zero tolerance approach is far better than the current 80mg blood limit for all; including the would be drink driver. So many times I will hear a client say to me ‘I only had a couple of drinks’. It is arguably the current limit that lures the driver into believing that they can have a drink (or maybe even two) before driving. A driver’s blood / alcohol content will vary depending on a number of factors, including: (1) the amount of alcohol consumed, (2) the speed of consumption, (3) age, (4) gender, (5) weight, (6) fat / muscle content, (7) metabolism and (8) medications. How, after consuming one or two drinks, is a driver able to accurately assess whether they are about to commit an offence by driving? The answer is that they can’t. 

With a zero tolerance approach the driver has a greater degree of certainty over whether they are about to commit an offence. I appreciate that there is a risk that a driver might fail a test by virtue of their recent use of alcoholic mouthwash, consumption of gran's sherry trifle or chocolate liqueurs. Or they might, more easily be caught ‘the morning after the night before’. However, such risks are far lower than those associated with the current drink drive limit. In any event, there are certain circumstances in which disqualification from driving can be avoided for a drink drive offence. See our special reasons page. 

At the very least, I hope that the above provides food for thought.

Drive carefully, especially over the Christmas period and remember that we’re there to assist should those blue lights appear in the rear view mirror.