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Drinking and driving – don’t risk it

Christmas party season is upon us, alcohol is flowing freely and it remains as important as ever to remember not to drink and drive or give in to those who urge: "Go on, just have one more…"

Sadly, every year, drink driving has grave implications for those who are stopped and found to be over the limit and, potentially, even graver for those involved in an accident as a result.

Avon and Somerset Police has now launched its annual Christmas drink and drug campaign which runs until January with high visibility as well as covert patrols. Last year, it made 155 arrests and 96 people were charged - an increase on the previous year.

This year, in addition, the Government is specifically targeting young men - who account for nearly two thirds of drink drive fatalities - with a campaign being run through Facebook, Twitter and Spotify.

Tragic statistics

Although deaths from drink driving have gone down over the last 30 years, it is still responsible for the death of five people every week.

Research for the Department of Transport has found that 20 per cent of young men will have two or more drinks before driving and an extra 11 per cent say they have considered it.

Yet a study by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has shown that a second drink doubles a driver's chance of being involved in a fatality.

Furthermore, driving the morning after a heavy night is not necessarily safe either. Government figures revealed that in 2013, an estimated 740 reported drink drive collisions took place in the morning and around 5,500 people fail breath tests between 6am and midday every year.

What is the law?

In England and Wales, the alcohol limit for drivers is 80 micrograms of alcohol per 100 ml of blood, 35 milligrams per 100 ml of breath or 107 milligrams per 100 ml of urine.

There is no sure way of drinking and staying under the limit - it all depends on factors like how much you have eaten, what you have drunk, your weight and metabolism and what your stress levels are at the time.

The only sure way to be safe is not to drink at all.

How is drink driving punished?

If you are found to be over the legal alcohol limit when driving you will be banned from driving for at least 12 months for a first offence within 10 years, and fined up to £5,000, given a community order or even sent to prison for up to six months for the most serious offences.

The length of the disqualification, the amount of the fine, the length of the community order or any period of imprisonment are determined by the seriousness of the offence, including the level of alcohol, and the circumstances.

If you're caught drink driving more than once in a 10 year period, you will be banned for at least three years.

Banned for being in charge of a car without driving it

At this time of year in particular, it is also important to remember that you can be banned for being in charge of a vehicle when over the limit. So, for example, if you decide to sleep in your car after a heavy night out and whilst under the influence of alcohol, it is worth noting that you are still likely to be convicted.

If you are thinking of sleeping in your car this Christmas after drinking, make sure you give the keys to someone else to look after which could help you demonstrate that you could not have driven anywhere.

Whilst there is no specific definition of being in charge of a vehicle, it is a question of whether a person is in actual control of the vehicle.

Basically, if you are over the limit, it is best to avoid being in a car other than as a passenger or being in possession of the keys to a vehicle while you are anywhere near it.

In any event, the message is clear - don't risk drinking and driving.

  • If you need help and advice about a drink driving offence, please contact Michael Gupwell.

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