Mark Sinclair's Blog: 16 December 2009 - Sobering statistics
16 December 2009
Mark Sinclair is boss of leasing firm Alphabet
Christmas and drink-driving campaigns go together like, well, turkey and stuffing.
The police carry out about a fifth of their yearly total of breath tests over the Christmas and New Year period. On television, public information shorts convey the drink-drive message in between glossy ads for perfumes and the sort of liqueurs that hang around the back of drinks cupboards for years.
Judging by the remarkable 75% drop in annual drink-driving deaths over the past 30 years, these attempts to curb the practice have been pretty effective.
But 430 people still died in drink-related crashes on UK roads last year. Another 12,600 people suffered serious or minor injuries. That's a weekly toll of 250 deaths and injuries involving someone driving while over the limit.
And that statistic is nothing compared with the total number of drivers who take a chance with the law by getting behind the wheel when they shouldn't.
One in eight drivers questioned by the Home Office a few years ago admitted driving after drinking what they believed was an 'over the limit' amount of alcohol during the previous year. Extrapolated across the entire UK driving population, that comes to more than four million drivers, a fifth of whom reckon they drive over the limit once every month or more.
These drivers are risking their lives and those of others. Of course, they also run the risk of becoming one of the 600,000 motorists breathalysed by the police annually. Of those, about 100,000 will fail the test or refuse to provide a sample. Either circumstance, of course, will almost certainly cost them their licence - typically for a year - and, often, their livelihood too.
The trouble with these statistics is that they're abstract. We know the numbers but find it hard to relate them to everyday experience.
So let's apply them to a firm with 350 business drivers. The good news is that the chance of any of them being killed or injured in a drink-related crash in any one year is tiny - just four hundredths of one per cent.
But after that, the numbers increase alarmingly. According to the Home Office survey mentioned earlier, 40 or more of these drivers will occasionally drive while over the limit. Eight of them will risk it every month. Over a year, six drivers will be breathalysed and one of them will end up losing their licence.
Perhaps that is the key message for anyone whose job demands a driving licence. While drink-drive deaths have thankfully fallen steeply (due in part to more crash-resistant cars and higher seatbelt use), the number of convictions for driving while over the limit has stayed at a constant 95-105,000 per year.
The stakes may soon become higher, as the Government has appointed an independent expert to advise it on lowering the current blood-alcohol limit, or possibly introducing a new penalty regime for drivers caught with lower levels of alcohol in their blood. He will make his report next March.
Perhaps this a good time to send out a reminder to your drivers of what they stand to lose this festive season, should they decide to take a chance on not being caught. You can download posters, videos and other materials from this year's drink-drive campaign from the Think! road safety web site.