Morning breath tests are catching out late-night revellers as, according to government departmental figures, approaching 6,000 people are stopped by the police and fail breathalyser tests in the UK each year – not, however, because of getting into their cars straight from a night out to go back home, but the morning after while still feeling the effects of their alcohol consumption from the night before.
Almost 750 drink driving-related road incidents occurred in 2013, so it seems that a lot of drivers, while taking great care to not drink and drive on their night out, are far less attentive or concerned when it comes to driving the next day.
These kinds of figures are surprising since Britain has come a long way in changing its attitudes to driving under the influence; a tough stance on drink driving law and a succession of sophisticated government campaigns have done wonders to bring about a cultural shift that has drink driving frowned upon throughout the country, and that has seen a huge fall in the number of alcohol-related road accidents over the last few decades.
In 1979, drink driving-related fatalities totalled 1,640. By 1989, that figure had dropped to 810, then 10 years later in 1999, there were a reported 460 deaths associated with drink driving. Recent years have seen those numbers drop even further, with an average of around 230 deaths each year.
This level of improvement in road safety is a far cry from many other countries, who have entirely failed to stem the tide of drink driving incidents – for example in the US, where, despite drink drive-related fatalities having halved since 1980, there are still in the region of 10,000 drink driving road deaths per year – an alarming statistic, indeed.
However, even among countries who have succeeded in making significant strides towards improved drink driving levels, Britain’s problem with hungover driving is still far from unique. Take Australia, where the Transport Accident Commission has identified Saturday mornings until 8am and Sunday mornings until 10am as “high alcohol times”.
Australia has seen a huge decline in drink driving incidents over the last two decades; close to 130 drivers/riders were killed while over the limit in 1987 compared with just over 40 in 2012. Yet it is noteworthy that still today one in four drivers/riders killed on Australia’s roads die with alcohol levels that register a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05g/100ml. That’s above the current BAC limit in Scotland (also 0.05g/100ml), but lower than the 0.08g/100ml limit in England and Wales.
The reason behind the UK’s continuing issues with morning drink driving could be a case of people not caring, but that would be inconsistent with attitudes generally, so it seems more likely that people are not properly aware of the dangers of driving while still worse for wear. For example, research has shown that a third of UK drivers don’t know that only four pints or big glasses of wine in a single evening could cause you to be over the limit come the morning.
This is because on average the human body takes around an hour to process one unit of alcohol. A pint or large wine each can have around three units, so multiply that by handful of drinks, and suddenly your body could need a lot more than just a few hours to reach safe driving and legal driving levels.
With police continually looking to crack down on drink driving, and with England and Wales considering bringing down limits in the near future so that they are in line with Scotland’s breath alcohol and BAC limits, there is every reason for motorists to start taking greater care and ensure that, if they have been drinking the night before, they seek alternative methods of transport the morning after