The drink-driving conviction of television presenter Kirsty Gallacher has brought this issue into the spotlight, sadly at great cost to her, even though it appears that she did everything right the night before, taking a taxi home and planning to collect her car the next day. However, well into the following day, she was still found to be significantly over the alcohol limit.
People think they are not a drink-driver or that they won’t get caught. But what makes a drink-driver? Anyone who has drunk alcohol and then driven? And how long should you leave it until getting back behind the wheel? It is common for people to have several drinks at home or to get a taxi home following a night out, have some sleep, wake up and then just jump in the car as is their normal routine and not consider whether they are fit to drive. Your body can only process about one unit of alcohol an hour – that’s if you know what a unit of alcohol is – and it can be complicated depending on the strength of alcohol. Beer could be anywhere from 3.5% to 6% ABV and wine 8% to 15% ABV, and was it a small or large glass of wine that you had? Furthermore, we all metabolise alcohol differently: our gender, weight, medication, general health, and whether we have eaten recently can all affect the rate at which we absorb and process the alcohol.
Do you count up how many drinks you have drunk, work out the units and then calculate how long it will take for all the alcohol to leave your body after that last drink before you get behind the wheel? If the answer is “no” you could easily be convicted of drink-driving the morning after, resulting in a lengthy driving ban, and having a criminal conviction and the stigma that goes with it in addition to the inconvenience of losing your licence. Next time you have a few drinks, think of what you will be doing the next day: will you need to take the kids to football, take your partner shopping, go to work? Or should it be a no-car day altogether?
Commendably, Kirsty Gallacher has held her hand up and accepted responsibility for the offence, but has nevertheless been handed a 2-year driving ban, which she would have been able to reduce by 6 months by taking part in an optional Driver Rehabilitation course. At IAM RoadSmart, we deliver such courses to convicted drink drivers. The courses are informal and completely non-judgemental, and are intended to provide real help based on facts rather than the many myths out there. Avoiding reoffending often involves lifestyle changes for those who have previously seen a few glasses of wine or several pints as being the norm, and the courses are designed to help clients to put plans in place to have no alcohol in their system when they return to the road, to ensure that they are safe. In the last 4 years we have helped over 9000 people who were convicted of drink-driving. In addition, we deliver courses to raise awareness of the dangers of drink-driving, which can of course be tragic.
Being convicted of drink-driving can be very stressful. There is much impact on the individual not being able to go where they want when they want, relying on public transport which can be frustrating, and puts a burden on friends and family. Often people lose jobs or relationships and face challenges with career progression.
So before you get behind the wheel, whatever the time of day, think: am I ok to drive?
By Sarah Fisk, DDR training and driver education manager
More information on understanding alcohol units and being safe the morning after.