We are just about to enter the festive season. Christmas parties and late night shopping will begin and people’s schedules are likely to be jam packed throughout the next month. Of course with the increase in social outings and visiting friends and relatives, people are often deviating from their normal routine and travelling longer distances. Unfortunately it translates that at this busy time of year there is an increase in accidents on the road. The combination of more traffic on the roads, people rushing from A to B, increase in alcohol consumption, and winter conditions on the roads could all be seen to contribute to this.

Don’t Drink and Drive

We have all become accustomed to the increase in television advertisements warning against the dangers of drink driving at this time of year. It is generally accepted now that consumption of alcohol at any level can have an effect on your ability to drive. Public Health England published a survey in September 2016 which found that 77% of respondents would support a lowering of the drink drive limit. The current limit in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is 80mg per 100ml of blood. This is compared to 50mg per 100 ml in Scotland. Of course guidelines with regards to what is considered to be a safe level of alcohol can be helpful but a number of factors will have an effect on how alcohol affects you such as the person’s weight, age, sex, metabolism, the type of alcohol, what you’ve recently eaten and your stress levels at the time of drinking. It is these variants that have lead to some calling for zero tolerance on any alcohol consumed prior to driving.

Driving the Morning After

People are also asked to become more careful when considering whether they should drive the morning after drinking alcohol. It is considered that on average it takes one hour per unit of alcohol to leave the body. Whilst the majority of people would never drive knowingly after drinking, many would not consider that the next day they may still be over the drink drive limit. An initiative known as the ‘Morning After Campaign’ has been running for a number of years which is designed to make people become more aware of how long they should wait before driving the day after consuming alcohol. Their website and accompanying app features a calculator in which the user can enter the amount of alcohol they have consumed and then calculate how many hours they should wait before driving after drinking alcohol.

Don’t use your Phone and Drive

What could be described as one of the biggest growing risk factors while driving currently is the use of mobile phones while driving. With people using smart phones in all aspects of their lives it has become more and more common for people to use their mobile phone while driving. The current automatic punishment for using a phone while driving is three penalty points on one’s driving licence and a fine of £100. This is however set to change in the next few months with the automatic fixed penalty set to go up to six points with a £200 fine. This has been welcomed by some however it has also been suggested that this increase does not go far enough and the fine should be in line with that of those caught drink driving who will receive an automatic ban.

A recent tragic case highlighted the dangers of using a mobile phone when a man driving a lorry along the A34 in Newbury, Berkshire hit stationary traffic while driving at 50 mph causing the death of a woman and three children. The driver was found to have been scrolling through music selections on his phone at the time of the accident and the Judge in the case noted that his attention was so poor while driving that he ‘might as well have had his eyes closed’. The Court was told that for about one kilometre the driver had been so distracted that he barely looked at the road. Footage was shown from a dash-cam in the cab of the lorry of the driver using his phone prior to the collision. The lorry driver was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to four counts of causing death by dangerous driving. Hopefully this tragic case will highlight the dangers of using a mobile phone while driving and prevent others from following the same fate: a vehicle is a dangerous weapon if not used with the requisite attention and care.

Brake’s Pledge campaign – the 6 S’s

Brake are a charity who offer support to people who have been bereaved or seriously injured in a road crash, as well as family, friends and professionals treating them. They run campaigns aimed at promoting awareness of dangerous driving practices so as to limit and prevent road deaths and injuries, and improve support for crash victims.

Brake’s initiative for Road Safety Week which ran from 21-27 November aimed to get people to sign up to the Pledge. This Pledge calls for people to drive less and, if they do drive, to do everything they can to protect themselves and the people around them. The Pledge involves six separate elements:

  • Slow
  • Sober
  • Secure
  • Silent
  • Sharp
  • Sustainable