South Yorkshire Safer Roads Partnership
18 Dec 2020
So the office Christmas party this year looks like being me sat at the dining room table in a paper hat having a zoom chat with the team. And there will be no big family parties or nights out with the girls.

In some ways I'm quite glad; it means I don't have to take my turn being the designated driver or resist the pressure of being encouraged to have one glass of wine with my meal when I'm driving. 

Now I'm not a big drinker, so I could probably still be under the limit after a glass of red, but I definitely wouldn't be fit to drive. That’s why I’ll be having “none for the road” this Christmas and not having a drink if I know I’ve got to drive.

So Christmas quiz question number one: what's the drink drive limit in England? Top marks if you said 35 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath, 80 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, or 107 milligrammes per 100 millilitres of urine (the limits applicable in England, Wales and Northern Ireland).

But how do these micrograms, millilitres and milligrammes relate to the number of drinks consumed? It's almost impossible to know how much someone can drink and still be under the drink drive limit. It depends on so many different things and it’s different for everyone. It’s even different for the same person at different times.

Driving after drinking alcohol increases the likelihood of us having a crash. That’s because alcohol can affect us by delaying reaction times and making us less focussed, so we’re less likely to spot danger and have enough time to react. Alcohol can also make us more likely to take risks by giving us extra confidence.

That’s why I don’t get up to sing Karaoke when I’m sober, because I know my singing is dreadful! But after a drink, we’re more likely to take risks, which puts us and others in more danger.

Alcohol could still impair driving performance the morning after. Over a quarter of drivers caught over the drink drive limit are stopped the next morning. Drinking at home in the evenings could put drivers at increased risk the next day, especially if it was a late night and you have an early start in the morning.

Home measures of wines and spirits can be a lot more generous than those at the pub so it’s easy to lose track of the number of units we’ve had to drink. The body processes one unit of alcohol per hour, starting one hour after the last drink. So drink 4 cans of 5.5% beer (8 units) and it could take 9 hours for your body to process all the alcohol. Or after 2 large G&Ts (3.6 units) it could take over 4 and a half hours for your body to process the alcohol.

It’s not worth the consequences; penalties if caught over the drink drive limit include a driving ban, a fine, a criminal record, an endorsement on your driving licence for 11 years, even imprisonment. And the implications of that could be wide ranging, from being a major inconvenience without a car to get around in, to impacting on your job and increasing your insurance costs. But just think of the shame of being caught, or worse how you would feel if you seriously injured or killed someone when you were driving over the limit. You’ll have to live with that regret and guilt forever. A very sobering thought.

With all this in mind, it’s probably best to leave Santa a glass of milk with his mince pie rather than an alcoholic tipple. He does have a busy night ahead, guiding that sleigh all over the world. So last quiz question for today, fill in the blanks: if I’ve had a drink…. Yes, that’s right, just DON’T DRIVE.

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas (excuse the pun) and stay safe until next time.