According to statistics, over 90% of all UK drivers consider that driving under the influence of alcohol is extremely dangerous, and recognize the dangers of driving when drunk. The problem with this statistic is that it means that over two million UK drivers must think that drunk driving is not dangerous. This could not be further from the truth, each year on British roads 3000 to 3500 people are killed in drink related accidents.
Newspaper headlines commonly claim that the numbers are falling, although it is true that over the last few years the numbers have fallen, that is only compared to record highs. When you look at the first time the figure was recorded back in 1979 only 1600 people were killed, half of today’s figures. Therefore, it seems hard to argue that these are ‘good’ figures and numbers of deaths are going down.
The UK legal limit for driving with alcohol in your system is 80mg of alcohol to 100ml of blood. It does not necessarily follow that if you body has less than this limit you are safe to drive. In the US, many states have successfully prosecuted drivers who were below the legal limit but still deemed to be unfit to drive.
Even in the late 70’s if the police stopped a driver who was drunk, they often did not have breathalyzers available. And would also take an attitude of the driver was ‘not too drunk’ and let them walk the rest of the way home. That attitude has disappeared completely; police now always seek convictions for drivers who are even a tiny fraction over the limit.
If you choose to drink and drive the law now has stiff penalties, combined with a strong will to make an example of, not just some, but all offenders. Driving above the limit carries a 12 month ban, a £5,000 fine, and a sentence of up to six months in jail, and that is for the first offence. Anyone who thinks it’s a good idea to refuse a breath test faces the same penalties.
An endorsement on your license for a drink-driving is not removed for eleven years, that means for eleven years if the police pull you over they will almost certainly breathalyze you, on the basis that you have a history of ignoring the dangers of driving when drunk.
Insurance companies would rather take on a seventeen year old with a sports car than someone with a drink driving conviction as they consider the risk to be lower. This means premiums could be several times what you paid before the conviction. After a second offence, insurance is nearly impossible to obtain at any price.
Drunk drivers who killed someone else, used to often come under the careless driving laws, which carried a maximum penalty of a £2,500 fine. The new offence of causing death by careless driving, while under the influence of drink or drugs, is slightly stricter with a maximum disqualification of two years, and a fourteen year prison sentence.
Drinking and driving is now completely socially unacceptable, with not only the courts frowning on such behavior. Friends and neighbours can ostracize offenders, employers have no interest in taking on convicted drink drivers, and even if they do, their insurers will often block the employment. The days of casual drink driving are well and truly over with the vast majority of people recognizing the dangers of driving when drunk on British roads.