As the holiday season begins, police officers across the country join forces to support a national anti-drink driving campaign. Forces throughout the UK are preparing for a spike in the numbers of those tested and arrested for drink and drug driving offences as the renewed police campaign launches today (1 December 2017).

During the month of December, motorists should expect to see more police cars and traffic officers on the road so should be alive to the dangers of getting behind the wheel after indulging in festive cheer at office Christmas parties or holiday get-togethers.

This comes as the most recent data from the Department for Transport (DfT) shows that there has been an alarming increase in the number of serious injuries on the roads caused by drink driving related accidents in 2015. Figures released recently show 1,170 serious injuries in reported drink drive accidents up from the previous year. The number of failed roadside breath tests also increased for the first time since 2005, with 3,450 drivers found to have failed the test. The total number of casualties for drink drive accidents was 8,470 in 2015, a rise of 3% on the previous year.

Whilst these figures are the most current in terms of recorded events, more recent driver data from the RAC shows that the proportion of drivers who admit to drink driving fell between 2016 (20%) and this year (16%). Whether this downward trend results in a fall in the number of actual incidents remains to be seen. Interestingly, a higher proportion of those in London admitted to drink driving than those living in rural areas. The RAC report also found that 59% of motorists are in favour of lowering the drink drive limit to bring it into line with Scotland and the rest of the EU.

Serious long-term consequences of drink driving convictions

While drink driving may not seem particularly serious when viewed against other criminal offences that are reported in the news, what is not often understood is the real impact that a drink driving conviction can have.

A driving disqualification often leads to loss of employment, which in turn can have severe consequences. Whether it is loss of accommodation as bills cannot be paid, the impact upon family life and children, or the breakdown of a relationship, the long-term impact of a drink driving conviction can be devastating. Convictions, however minor, can also lead to problems with employability where employers are sensitive to Disclosure and Barring Service testing.

The financial costs will also continue to be felt for many years, as insurance premiums will be greatly increased. There is also the obvious impact on a person’s employability in regulated areas, which can significantly limit future earnings.

The morning after the night before

RAC research shows that 10% of drivers admit to driving whilst over the limit the following morning following a heavy drinking session.

We are increasingly dealing with people who have been stopped and tested the morning after drinking the night before. These clients subsequently come before the Courts with alcohol readings that are relatively low and where the offence has been committed perhaps more out of ignorance than a willful disregard for others.

A single error of judgement however does not absolve that person of an automatic driving disqualification, and our focus then shifts to limiting the damage of the conviction and sentence on them in the short and medium term.

What is a safe level of drinking if I want to drive?

Zero alcohol is the safest level as it ensures that when you get behind the wheel, your reactions are not impaired to any degree at all. Crucially it also prevents the guesswork that brings so many people before the Courts.

Urban myths such as ‘2 pints are okay’ have long since been proved to be false, as have back of the envelope guesses as to how long it takes alcohol to leave the body. The simple science is that everybody’s physiology is different and the rates of alcohol absorption depend on a number of different factors.

We will often need to instruct an expert toxicologist in order to accurately calculate likely alcohol absorption in cases where someone has consumed alcohol after having driven, but before being arrested. If it takes an individual with a medical degree and years of experience to get an accurate picture, then your average person stands very little chance of being able to judge how close to the limit they are after drinking.

How we can assist

If you do find yourself in trouble, there is a lot we can do to help.

The police must follow complex procedures to establish a case against you – we will swiftly obtain the case file against you to ensure that this has been done before you accept a potentially faulty charge.

We can also investigate issues such as ‘laced drinks’ and ‘special reasons’ and advise you on the prospects of successfully defending cases of post-driving consumption.

Well-presented mitigation can make a real difference to the outcome, and even where a disqualification cannot be avoided, we can often achieve a reduction to the minimum possible length of disqualification.

If you have been arrested for drink driving, or have been contacted by the police in relation to any other motoring offence, contact our specialist Road Traffic Offences team free of charge here.