South Yorkshire Safer Roads Partnership
30 Nov 2021
Christmas is nearly upon us again and hopefully this year we’ll be able to have more parties and get-togethers with friends, family and colleagues than we did in 2020.

This year’s festivities will have to make up for a lot of missed celebrations over the last 20 months. But amongst all the fun and merriment we should stop and remember all those families who have lost loved ones in road traffic collisions. Think of those families who will have empty seats at the Christmas dinner table.

And as our annual “don’t drink and drive” campaign starts, we think especially of the families who have lost loved ones to a drink driver. In the course of our work, we come into contact with people whose lives have been forever changed as a result of drink driving; both as a result of losing a loved one or being the drink driver (and sometimes both).

The Government have been running their drink drive campaigns for over 50 years and in this time there have been some pretty graphic adverts and posters to try and convince us why we shouldn’t drink and drive.

Remember Kathy, the blond, curly haired little girl who couldn’t sleep because her father had knocked down and killed a little boy, and a kid at school had said “Your dad’s a murderer”? Or the image of a female casualty laid in the road with a tube in her mouth, being shocked and the slogan “Look her in the eye. Then say a quick drink never hurt anybody.” It’s powerful stuff that aims to get into our conscience and remind us of the awful potential consequences of drink driving.

And to some extent the campaigning seems to have worked. We’re all familiar with the “Don’t Drink and Drive” slogan. Many more of us see drink driving as being anti-social. Importantly, the number of deaths at the hands of a drink driver have reduced significantly. But any death is still too many, especially when something so completely avoidable as a driver having alcohol in their system is a contributory factor.

We shouldn’t forget that, despite the fall in fatal casualties, many more people are injured in collisions involving a drink driver. The latest estimates from the Department for Transport suggest that over 7,000 people in England were injured in 2019 in collisions involving a drink driver. With the scale of these numbers, it’s clear that many drivers are still prepared to have a drink and then get behind the wheel.

This year, the Safer Roads Partnership is running our campaign on billboards and on bus backs across South Yorkshire, as well as on our social media channels. The artwork will use an old favourite in terms of children’s Christmas gifts – Lego (other building blocks are available!). Figures showing a driver being breathalysed by a Police officer will be shown to reiterate to motorists just one of the possible consequences of drink driving.

If you are caught drink driving, you’ll face a minimum 12 month driving ban and a hefty fine, get yourself a criminal record and have your driving licence endorsed for 11 years. You cold even receive a prison sentence of up to 6 months. On top of that, think about the consequences if you do lose your licence; being dependent on others for a lift, the impact on your job if you need to drive for work and, when you do get your licence back, car insurance costs will rise.

And worse than all this, think how it might feel if you did get behind the wheel after having a drink and then cause a crash that killed someone. How would you live with that for the rest of your life?

It’s difficult to tell how much you can have to drink and still be under the legal limit to drive. It depends on so many factors and will be different for everyone. The way alcohol affects you can even be different for the same person on different days as it depends on things like your metabolism, the type of alcohol you are drinking, what you have eaten recently and your stress levels at the time. That’s why our message is simple: don’t drink if you have to drive.

All this is pretty sobering stuff (excuse the pun) at a time when we want to be having fun celebrating the festive season. But if we all just take a moment to think about the consequences of getting behind the wheel when we’ve had a drink, then we can avoid a lot of heartache, for everyone.

So what can you do practically to avoid drink driving? Well it’s simple really, if you are having a drink, have a plan. If you are going out, plan how you will get home; order a taxi, check public transport times, or designate someone to drive who won’t be drinking. Extend your plan to the morning after if you have to drive the next day. A heavy drinking session the night before can still leave you over the legal limit to drive the next morning.

We hope you have a wonderful Christmas and New Year with family and friends. May Santa bring you all the presents you wish for. But throughout the festivities, remember that possibly the best present you can give to others is to not drink and drive.

It will help to keep everyone safer on the roads of South Yorkshire this Christmas and mean we all have a chance of a happy and healthy 2022.

Until next time, stay safe.