Millions of drivers are willing to risk their safety and licence by drinking and driving.
A series of new studies have found between a fifth and quarter of drivers will ignore the legal guidelines and follow their own feelings or self-defined “safe” limit this Christmas.
That includes one in 10 confident that they can drink more than the legal limit before their driving ability is affected.
Despite huge anti-drink-driving campaigns, a CarTakeBack.com and YouGov survey found that almost one in five (17 per cent) think it’s sometimes acceptable to drive after drinking – as long as they feel unaffected. With 40 million driving licences in Great Britain, this is nearly seven million drivers.
A similar poll by breathalyser maker Alcosense found that 24 per cent of people would drive after having a few drinks if they felt sure they were under the limit but seven per cent were willing to drive even if they thought they were at or above the legal limit.
And an RAC study, in conjunction with the Think! drive-drive campaign, found that a quarter of people are happy to have one small alcoholic drink before driving while 10 per cent will have a large one and two per cent will have two, even though this could push them over the limit.
While alcohol affects everyone differently, the legal limits are clear but many drivers believe they will know if they’re over the limit without checking.
Motorists caught driving under the influence can have their licence revoked, face an unlimited fine and even be jailed for up to six months.
UK drink-drive limits
England, Wales and Northern Ireland: 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood
Scotland: 50mg/100ml blood
Getting away with it
The Alcosense poll found that of those willing to risk it 48 per cent said it was because they only had a short distance to drive and the same proportion would do it because they thought they wouldn’t get caught.
The RAC also found that while 40 per cent of people had a friend they believed was guilty of drink-driving more than a quarter (28 per cent) wouldn’t step in to stop a drunk pal getting behind the wheel.
Data from Police.uk shows December is the month with the highest number of positive or refused breath tests on the roads. In the latest data, there were 5,869 in December compared to 4,446 in February.
Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart’s policy and research director, said: “Christmas can be a perfect storm for drink-driving. Temptations all around, the normal rules relaxed, and as this survey suggests, a high level of ignorance and misunderstanding around limits and safe levels.”
A 2011 government report by Sir Peter North stated that drivers with a blood alcohol concentration between 50mg and 80mg are 2-2.5 times more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers with zero alcohol, and up to six times more likely to be involved in a fatal collision.
Mr Greig added: “Ultimately there is no safe level of alcohol in the blood if you intend to drive. The simplest message is none for the road. Plan your night out so that you can enjoy yourself and not have any stress about the journey home.”
The morning after
Hunter Abbott, MD of AlcoSense and a member of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety added that many drivers forget about the morning-after effect.
A quarter of motorists polled by his company said they would drive at 7am after Christmas party drinks, despite the risk of residual alcohol impairing their ability to drive.
“Almost 20 per cent of drink drive convictions are the morning after the night before, and a third of all breath tests after an accident are conducted between 7am and 1pm,” he said.
“The message is clear. If you’re planning to have a festive drink, leave the car keys behind”.