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Graham Hurdle's blog: Some sobering thoughts around drink driving

Date: 10 January 2017

We all know drink driving is against the law and, if caught above the legal limit, there is a very good chance you will pay a heavy fine and be banned from driving for a long time. But how does alcohol actually affect our ability to drive?

Alcohol is a drug that affects the nervous system. Impairment starts the moment you have your first drink, not when you reach the legal limit.  So even if you're legally entitled to drive, it doesn't mean you're safe.

Its not our eyes that give us that blurred vision but our brain that can't decipher the signals it receives from our eyes. After drinking alcohol the brain takes longer to receive messages from the eye.

Processing information becomes more difficult and instructions to the muscles are delayed. Alcohol can slow down reaction time by 10 to 30 per cent. It also reduces the ability to perform two or more tasks at the same time.

 Seeing distant objects deteriorates, and night vision can be reduced by 25 per cent. Blurred and double vision can also occur. Ability to perceive what is happening at the roadside is weakened. Loss of peripheral vision could be crucial. Alcohol may also create a sense of overconfidence, with the result that people are prepared to take greater risks.

Let's say it again. This happens immediately, not just when you're over the limit. It's just that it gets worse the more you drink.

So why isn't there a total ban? And why are the UK (with the exception of Scotland) and Malta the only EU countries that have a limit of 80mg?

This is a question that receives much debate and like Brexit you are either for or against lowering the limit to 50mg. Those who say it should be lowered argue it would reduce the number of KSI (killed and seriously injured) and cite the evidence that the KSIs did reduce when Scotland lowered its limit. It is true the number of KSIs in Scotland did fall, but could this be due to all the accompanying media attention in Scotland about drink driving?

Those who feel it should remain at 80mg state that lowering it won't make any difference after all the media attention has died down. They point to the fact that those drivers who are caught drink driving are mostly well above the limit, so it is not the driver who has slightly exceeded the limit by mistake, but drivers who would drink drive whatever the limit is.

Whatever side of the argument you sit on, what cannot be disputed is that the only safe approach is not to drink at all if you are going to drive and I'd like to urge as many companies as possible to preach that in 2017 as its not just a message for Christmas!