Many crashes take place many hours after drinking has stopped

Blog post posted on 04/09/20 |
Stephen Willmott is one of the trainers who delivers the Drink Drive Rehabilitation Course for IAM RoadSmart’s Driver Retraining Academy. In 2019/20 our drink drive rehabilitation services helped almost 5,000 convicted drink drivers understand the dangers of alcohol, not only in relation to driving but to their health and lives in general, contributing to our mission to improve UK road safety.

I have been delivering the IAM RoadSmart drink drive rehabilitation courses for six years. Previously I spent over 40 years as a Senior Legal Adviser in magistrates’ courts. My job involved me advising magistrates on the law, practice, procedure and sentencing of which a large number were drink drive cases. Cases of causing death while under the influence also appeared initially before me, before being sent to the Crown Court for trial.

When given the option, most people decide to take a drink drive rehabilitation course when the Court offers it to them.  As part of the sentence for a conviction of drink driving, the court offers them the opportunity of reducing the mandatory disqualification by 25 per cent. This reduction is made once someone has completed the drink drive rehabilitation course. 

Approved by the DVSA, the rehabilitation course gives support and advice to reduce their chances of re-offending. Defense solicitors explain to their clients that the course, conducted for 16 hours over three-weeks, will allow participants the opportunity to reflect on what they have learned in each session.

I get a great deal of job satisfaction from delivering the course. People are generally apprehensive and nervous when they attend day one. I explain it will be a far better experience than they are expecting. At the end of day one I check on their thoughts on what they have learned and there is always a positive response. For some, it will cause them to reflect on their relationship with alcohol. The course also considers the effects of alcohol on their health.

Most people who attend the rehabilitation courses will admit they have been drink driving for many years. There is strong evidence that the majority of those who complete it don't re-offend after, which helps to make the roads safer for everyone.

During the course, we examine how alcohol affects people’s ability to drive safely, the consequences of a further conviction that will result in a minimum of three years disqualification, the devastation caused by  drink drivers when a person is killed and the inevitable prison sentence that will be imposed if they are convicted of such an offence. 

If you are designated under the Drink Drive Rehabilitation Scheme as a ‘High Risk Offender’, you will need to have a medical before your licence can be returned to you. A ‘High Risk Offender’ would be someone who ‘Failed to provide a specimen for analysis without reasonable cause’, or someone who had an alcohol reading exceeding 87.5 micrograms/100 mls of Breath, 200 milligrams/100 mls of Blood, 267.5 milligrams/100 mls of Urine or finally someone who has been disqualified on two separate occasions within a ten year period for any Drink Drive Offence.

You are advised to drastically reduce their alcohol intake ahead of the medical and ideally make long term lifestyle changes such as incorporate a more balanced and healthy approach to their alcohol intake.  Liver damage is not something visible to the human eye, however if caught early enough the liver can recover in time.  A change in lifestyle takes away any fears of a medical and gives them a healthier lifestyle for the future.  

One of the main learning points from the course is the detailed information about how long it takes for someone who has been drinking to be below the legal limit the following day. Many crashes take place many hours after drinking has stopped. This helps people think carefully about planning when they are safe to drive and is a further encouragement to generally reduce their alcohol consumption.

I’m convinced the drink drive rehabilitation courses are very beneficial on two levels. On a personal level, they enable people to change their behaviour and relationship with alcohol and to lead a healthy lifestyle in the future.  On a broader level for society, they reduce chances of reoffending and therefore make a valuable contribution to road safety. There is clear evidence that while road casualties are still too high, there has been a substantial improvement since 1991, when the courses were introduced.

Stephen Willmot – Drink Driving course trainer


Facts from IAM RoadSmart

  • Final estimates for 2018 in: Reported road casualties in Great Britain: final estimates involving illegal alcohol levels: 2018, revealed 240 people died in crashes where at least one driver was over the drink-drive limit.
  • An estimated 8,680 people were killed or injured when at least one driver was over the drink-drive limit, an increase of one per cent from 8,600 in 2017. That means on average more than 23 people a day were killed or injured as a result of drinking and driving, in 2018.
  • Most worryingly, the total number of crashes where at least one driver was over the alcohol limit rose by three per cent to 5,890 in 2018, an average of around 16 crashes a day.

You can read more about what IAM RoadSmart believes is needed to further reduce the number of people killed and injured in crashes where at least one driver was over the drink-drive limit here.

Our policy statement on the drink-drive limit is here.