Brake, the road safety charity, is calling on drivers to stay sober if driving over the Christmas period – not a drop, not a drag – or plan to get home by taxi or public transport, to prevent devastating casualties.
The call comes as the Association of Chief Police Officers’ and Police Scotland’s annual drink and drug driving enforcement campaign kicks off. The month long campaign sees forces across the UK stepping up checks to catch drivers risking lives. It’s been given renewed impetus as a new, lower drink drive limit comes into force in Scotland, from Friday 5th December.
The latest available figures, from 2012, show that 230 people were killed (one in eight road deaths) and 1,210 were seriously injured in crashes involving someone over the limit. It’s estimated that a further 65 deaths are caused annually by drivers who have been drinking, but are under the limit. Drug driving has been estimated to cause 200 deaths each year.
Call for zero tolerance limit
Brake is renewing calls for a zero tolerance drink drive limit of 20mg alcohol per 100ml of blood, in line with evidence that even one drink dramatically increases crash risk, and to send a clear message it should be none for the road. A blood alcohol level of 20-50mg increases your likelihood of crashing three-fold.
The Scottish Government has introduced a lower limit of 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, coming into force on 5th December 2014, and has begun a multi-media campaign to raise awareness of the new law. The rest of the UK retains a 80mg limit – higher than all other EU countries except Malta.
Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive at Brake, said:
“As a charity that supports bereaved and injured road crash victims, we witness the suffering that drink and drug driving inflict, and appeal to everyone to help put a stop to it. Drink and drug driving deaths and injuries are cruel and needless, ending and ruining lives and leaving traumatised families to pick up the pieces. If you’re driving home from celebrations this festive season, it’s vital you take your responsibility for people’s safety seriously, and stay completely off booze and drugs. It’s a fact that even small amounts of alcohol or drugs increase your risk of crashing.
“We are calling on the UK government to take action on drink driving. We have the highest drink-drive limit in Europe, sending out the dreadful message that a drink or two before driving is acceptable. We welcome the new lower limit in Scotland as a positive stepping stone towards zero tolerance. The evidence shows that a tough approach helps prevent casualties.”
New lower limit coming into effect in Scotland
The Scottish Government’s cabinet secretary for justice, Kenny MacAskill, said: “With the approval of Parliament, the new drink drive limit will come into force on December 5, making our roads safer and saving lives. We are doing everything we can to make sure everyone is informed about the new lower level.
“A persistent minority of people are still getting behind the wheel after drinking – the best approach is to have nothing at all, alcohol at any level impairs driving.
“This new law will bring Scotland into line with most of Europe and hopefully reduce drink drive arrests and prosecutions, as we have already seen in the Republic of Ireland, where drivers adjusted their behaviour to take account of the lower limit.”
Facts about Alcohol and Road Safety
- One in eight deaths on UK roads are caused by drink drivers over the current legal limit of 80mg alcohol per 100ml blood.
- Drivers with even 20-50mg alcohol per 100ml of blood are at least three times more likely to die in a crash than those with no alcohol in their blood
- Alcohol also makes it impossible for drivers to assess their own impairment because it creates a false sense of confidence and means drivers are more inclined to take risks and believe they are in control when they are not.
Westminster rejected recommendations for a lower limit in the North Report into drink and drug driving and Transport Select Committee inquiry into the issue. We now have the highest drink drive limit in Europe, alongside Malta. Evidence is clear that lowering drink drive limits results in fewer casualties, even reducing ‘high-level’ drink driving.
Advice for drivers over Christmas and New Year period
- Brake calls on drivers to never drive after drinking any amount of alcohol – not a drop – and appeals to everyone to look out for friends and family by speaking out against drink driving.
- There are plenty of alternatives to driving if you want to have a drink. Plan ahead for how you will get home by walking (if there’s a safe route), taking public transport or booking a taxi. If you need to drive then decide on a designated driver who doesn’t drink any alcohol at all, and make sure they stick to this.
- Driving after drinking alcohol significantly increases your risk of crashing, potentially killing or injuring yourself, you passengers or someone else. Even if you feel sober after one drink, your reaction times will have slowed and your crash risk increased.
- Don’t drink if you are driving early the next morning. There’s no way of knowing exactly how long it takes to sober up completely after drinking, but it’s longer than many people think. As a rough guide you should allow one hour to absorb alcohol, plus at least one hour for each unit consumed – but it could take longer, so you should always leave extra time to be safe. If you have to drive the next morning, limit yourself to no more than one or two drinks. If you have a lot to drink, you may be impaired for all of the following day.
- Brake is calling on members of the public to play their part in making roads safer by signing Brake’s Pledge at www.brake.org.uk/pledge, to make a personal commitment to use roads safely and sustainably, and help reduce the lives lost needlessly on our roads.
Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.