Expert Blog

Let’s make drink driving history

With Christmas approaching, let’s start with the good news: drink driving is a declining problem. 

In 1979, which was the year when records began, about 1,640 people were killed in drink driving accidents. Yet by 2012 that tragic toll had plummeted to 290. 

This was actually higher than the number achieved the year before, but the overall trend remains clear. We’re drink driving less, and fewer people are dying as a result.    

50 years of raising awareness

This is a wonderful testament to the work done by successive governments and various charities to raise awareness about drink driving. 
The first public information film on the subject was actually released 50 years ago last month, and we’ve probably all come across some of the shocking posters and television adverts since. 
Our attitudes have changed in the process. Nowadays, 91% of people think that is simply unacceptable to drink and drive. 

That’s a majority that’s worth celebrating. 

But we need to do more

But just look at those statistics again: deaths from drink driving may have declined, but there are still around 290 a year. And that, frankly, is 290 too many. 

Perhaps it is too much to expect the number to plummet to zero, but that is what we should be aiming for. 
We should always be asking: what more can we do to make drink driving history?

Young people

The answer, it seems to me, lies in young people. Educating young people about the dangers of drink driving will do more than anything to eradicate those dangers for good.

This isn’t just because – to put it cheesily – young people are the future. It’s also because young people are behind a lot of road accidents in the present. And plenty of those accidents involve alcohol.

According to the Government, the highest rates of drink and drug driving are amongst drivers aged between 20 and 29.   And younger drivers, aged between 17 and 19, make up only 1.5 per cent of UK licence holders, but are involved in 12% of fatal and serious crashes. 
The truth is that young drivers are less experienced, more likely to drink heavily, and much more likely to take risks.  
They’re the key to overcoming drink driving.

What can be done?

It all comes back to that A-word: Awareness. Part of the reason why young motorists are prepared to take risks with alcohol is that they don’t know what the parameters are.

survey by Red Driving School found that 79 per cent of young people don’t know what the legal drink driving limit is. 

 survey found that one-in-eight believe they can drink three or more units of alcohol and still drive. That’s pushing a couple of pints of beer.

This is why Hitachi Capital is working with the brilliant road safety charity Brake to release a guide aimed at young drivers. They need to know the facts before they get out on to the roads.

The interactive Sober-Up guide will be available later this month to download from the Hitachi Capital Driving Instructor Solutions website.

It’s never worth it

But perhaps the most important thing that we can teach young drivers is that drinking and driving is never worth it.

After all, were an accident to happen, it could be them that suffers. Whether it’s the physical cost of an injury that stays with them for life. Or the £50,000 financial cost of a drink driving conviction. 

But what if it’s someone else who suffers? A person in the road? The friend that’s sat next to them in the passenger seat? That is a burden that no-one would want to bear. Nor do they have to.  

For this is the great tragedy of those 290 fatalities a year: they were totally avoidable.

But it is also the great hope: we can avoid similar deaths in future.    

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