Drink Driving: Do You Think it’s Worth the Risk?

1,410 – That is the number of deaths that have decreased in 50 years due to drink driving. We’ve gone from losing 1,640 lives to 230. That’s a drop of around 86%. But really, that number should be zero.

From black and white to colour, and from ‘Jingle Bells’ to ‘Celebration’, drink driving warning videos have now been around for fifty years.

The first one in 1964 was narrated by someone who said: “Four single whiskies and the risk of accident can be twice as great! Six singles and the risk can be six times as great! Eight and the risk can be 25 times as great!”

This is hardly shocking news, yet this first advert was ground-breaking during a time when drink driving was actually thought to be socially acceptable and common. Attitudes since then have certainly shifted, along with the amount of deaths.

The latest campaign from the government involves a 60 second karaoke performance of Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration”, where a number of emergency service workers sing out of breath while they respond to a fatal car crash.

At the end of the film, a message reads, “In the last 50 years, drink driving deaths have fallen from 1,640 a year to just 230. But that’s still 230 too many.” This is true, since drink driving accidents account for 13% of all road fatalities.

How has drink driving evolved?

Drink driving has been illegal since 1925 but there used to be no method for measuring alcohol in the system. Back then it was determined by the opinion of the police officer at the scene, the sergeant at the station, and the doctor who was asked to give a medical opinion.

Before the Road Safety Act was introduced in 1967, nearly a quarter of road accidents were associated with drink driving. A new law then set a limit of 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. This made people more aware of the fact they could get caught – they became more wary and afraid.

Since that moment, the proportion of drink-related deaths dropped to 15% in just one year. Now, it is less than 5%.

Breathalysers arrived in 1968, but it still took a while to convince people – if they were caught they were thought to be unlucky, nothing worse. When 1975 arrived, only 29% of women had a drivers licence.

This was in comparison with 69% of men. There is a huge difference in those two figures today. Especially since the penalties have also become stricter. These can include a minimum 12 month driving ban, a criminal record, a fine of up to £5,000 and an endorsement on your license for 11 years.

In the 80’s a new type of advert was introduced which focussed more on the shocking effects that road traffic accidents could have on families. By this time, attitudes were changing and so were the number of deaths.

The advertisements aimed to be hard-hitting and truthful. But yet people, especially youths, were still unconcerned and thought drink driving was still acceptable.

By 1990, adverts continued to show the real dangers. One example from 1992, showed a led on the ground staring up at the camera after being in a car crash. The slogan read: “Look her in the eye. Then say a drink never hurt anybody.”

Since these new advertisements were introduced, a survey published as part of the Department for Transport’s Think! Campaign, has found that more than 90% of people now think that drink driving is unacceptable.

Not only did attitudes change, but car and road safety, along with medical procedures, were seen to improve which had led to the vast reduction in serious crashes.

Reducing the death rate


What is different about this year?

This Christmas in particular sees a huge shift in terms of who is actually being targeting for drink driving offences. The latest statistics have revealed that it is actually women who are now more likely to drive while over the limit.

As evidenced on The Guardian, a study by Social Research Associates (SRA) has shown that the percentage of women that have been convicted of being over the limit has nearly doubled in the past fifteen years.

Police forces across the country are now preparing for drink driving campaigns across the festive season. Last year for the first time, several authorities ‘named and shamed’ those people who were caught over the limit. Some plan to do the same this year and some already have.

More than 30 drivers have been revealed and charged in the West Midlands during the first week of the Christmas anti drink-drive campaign, and more than 40 have been arrested in Shropshire.

It is unfortunate. There has been so much change and development over the past fifty years. Yet there are still people who find it an exciting challenge to see how ‘well’ they can drive after a few too many drinks. The hope is that eventually, everyone will realise just how tragic drink driving is.

Once upon a time, there used to be rumours that you could drive home safely after one pint or even two. But in reality, the safest amount of alcohol you can drive home with in your system is none. But in reality, the safest amount of alcohol you can drive home with in your system is none.

The fact that police forces are naming and shaming those who are responsible for drink driving is a powerful method. It’s the sense of public humiliation that will hopefully lower the death rate to zero for good.

Top 10 Drink Driving Facts

  1. As of 5th December 2014, the alcohol limit for drivers in Scotland was reduced from 80 milligrams of alcohol in every 100 millilitres of blood to 50 milligrams of alcohol in every 100 millilitres of blood. In England and Wales, the alcohol limit for drivers is 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. 
  2. The rumours that you are able to drive with a little bit of alcohol in your system are false. Even the smallest amount of alcohol can affect you, so it is safer to drive with none.
  3. Even if you want to drive the next morning – don’t. Alcohol needs at least 12 hours to disappear from the system. Therefore, if you stop drinking at 3am, you are unable to drive until 3pm the next day.
  4. All the functions that we use to drive safely are affected by drink driving. The brain takes longer to receive messages from the eyes, processing information is more difficult and instructions to your body are delayed which causes a slower reaction time. You can also experience blurred and double vision.
  5. If police pull you over at any point to determine whether you are drink driving, they are permitted to use a breathalyser at the road side.  If you fail this test you will be immediately arrested and taken to a police station.
  6. You will need to provide two more breath specimens into an evidential breath testing instrument at the police station. The lower of the two readings will be used to decide whether you are over the limit.
  7. If this other sample is found to be up to 40% over the legal limit, you will be required to replace your breath specimen with blood or urine. This will be decided by the police officer. If these samples show that you are over the limit, you will then be charged. 
  8. Anyone who is caught drink driving will be banned from driving for at least 12 months and fined up to £5000. You can also be given between three to eleven points on your licence. 
  9. You could also be sent to prison for a drink driving offence for up to six months. This is all dependent upon the seriousness of the offence.
  10. According to Drink Aware, if you are caught drink driving more than once in a 10 year period, you will be banned from driving for at least three years.