Maybe this is going to shock you (as it did me) but the chances of your getting stopped and breathalysed are miniscule as Home Office statistics reveal that 813,288 drivers were breath tested in 2009 and that’s just 2% of motorists.
Clearly, the public perception of the chances of them getting caught drinking and driving is already fairly low and these statistics would mean they are right. Presently, it seems that over half of drivers think there is less than a one in four chance of being caught and nearly a third of drivers put the odds at a one in ten chance.
This is an awful situation for all of us as our families, kids and loved ones are all at risk from these idiots, who were responsible for one in six road deaths during 2009 and that’s a wholly unacceptable figure. Lets put that into some perspective, it means that there were 28 people seriously injured and a further 7 people killed every week in Britain during 2009 through the actions of drunk drivers.
This is a situation that’s not getting any better, because after years of having drink drive laws, we are still doing it, which suggests the penalties are just not hard enough. To put that into perspective, as far back as 1872, it was an offence to be drunk whilst in charge of carriages, or steam engines with a penalty of up to “40 Shillings” (that’s £2 now days and that was a lot of money 140 years ago, when an average salary was only 65p a week) or at the discretion of the court, the offender could be sentenced to imprisonment for up to one month.
By 1925 it became an offence to be found drunk in charge of any mechanically propelled vehicle, with a fine of up to £50 and/or imprisonment for up to 4 months, as well as disqualification from holding a driving licence for a ‘minimum’ period of 12 months and that was 85 years ago. By 1930, it became an offence to drive, attempt to drive or be in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or any other public place while being “under the influence of drink or a drug to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the vehicle”.
No drink drive limits were actually set until 1967 when the limit was set at a maximum BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, which is the same limit we have today, almost 45 years later, whilst the breathalyser has been in common use since 1968.
In March 2011 it seemed that the drink driving limit was to be lowered and random breath testing introduced, but instead it was decided that breath testing procedures were going to be streamlined making it easier for the police to enforce the laws we currently have and on the face of it that’s fine, but the problem is, we are entering a period where police budgets are being cut and the police head count reduced, with traffic police in some areas being reduced by over 50% so there is every likelihood that despite the changes that will make conducting the breath test easier, it could well be that there is no one to carry them out, so its all pointless.
There are arguments over potentially dropping the drink drive limit to 20mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, as it’s claimed (probably rightly) that any alcohol can impair a drivers ability to drive safely. However as far as I can see from the statistics, its not the drivers that have had a drink but maintain a level below the current regulations that are causing these accidents, it’s the drinkers that only go over the present limit and over by some way.
Clearly, breaking any law is socially unacceptable but not all law breakers create the potential to kill or injure people as drunk drivers do, so society has to send a strong message to these people, but I don’t think we are doing that. Clearly the threat of lengthy driving bans isn’t a deterrent as even now, drivers are happy to jump behind the wheel, when in reality, they are probably finding it difficult to stand up. Surely, stronger penalties such as imprisonment as a matter of course, if even only for a short period, should be considered.
Maybe we should look at the people who sell the drink and the land lords that make their living out of pouring as much booze into their customers as possible. Perhaps they should be accountable in the way a supermarket would be if the sold cigarettes of alcohol to anyone under age. Perhaps simply asking the customer at the bar if they are driving might be a start.
Let’s face it most pubs and bars have security cameras both inside and outside now, so perhaps there should be a little more accountability and responsibility from the licensed trade, and publicans should do their civil duty by keeping an eye on the cars that pull into their car parks and as to who is driving them and, more importantly, keep an eye out when they leave and report anything they are concerned about to the police, as should any of us that see anyone intending to drive, when obviously drunk.
When researching this, I began to feel that in all honesty, that no one was really bothered about this. Laws were in place almost 150 years ago to prosecute people who drove when drunk, specific car laws were in place over 80 years ago and our present drink drive limit was set over 45 years ago. Penalties of imprisonment and massively stiff fines as at a time when the average weekly wage was £1.55p in 1925, you could be fined £50 and that’s 32 weeks wages, but translate that into today’s average wage of £30,270 and the fine should be a massive £18,627 and as we all know, it isn’t.
The police do a great job in helping to keep us all safe, but they can’t do it alone and clearly, this isn’t a problem that’s going away, so we all have to muck-in and do our bit and that’s starts with none of us ever driving after having a drink and making sure we send that message to everyone we know, and of course by us reporting it to the police if we know somebody that’s doing it.
We can’t gloss over this, 7 deaths and 28 serious injuries every week caused by drunk drivers is surely something we can’t allow to continue.