Christmas revellers warned about the morning after

Road safety campaigners are rallying round this Christmas in an attempt to hammer home a vital message: Don't get behind the wheel after a night on the sauce.

The numbers of drivers being caught drink driving after enjoying a festive drink the night before are on the increase.

Research by road safety charity Brake and insurer Direct Line - released in the busiest week for Christmas parties - found a worrying four in 10 motorists admitted driving the morning after drinking excessively. That's up 30 per cent on seven years ago.

Brake's Julie Townsend said: 'A shocking proportion of drivers seem unaware of the dangers of driving the morning after a heavy night, or even drinking small quantities of alcohol. We're appealing to everyone to stay safe over the festive season by planning ahead - make sure you can get home safely, and stay off the booze if you're driving home or early the next day.'

The charity also called on the government to lower the drink drive limit claiming it's a 'crucial step in stamping out drink driving'.

So how long does it take to sober up after drinking? The worrying thing is there's no guaranteed timescale. But, as a guide, you should allow at least an hour to absorb the alcohol, then another hour for EVERY unit of alcohol you consume.

In booze terms that means if you down three pints of strong larger or a bottle of wine – both nine units – at 11pm, you need to leave it until at least 9am before you get behind the wheel. And drinking coffee, eating and sleeping won't make you sober up any faster – it just takes time.

Road safety minister Mike Penning said: 'Drivers should be in no doubt that if they get behind the wheel after drinking this Christmas, they risk losing their licence as well as facing a fine and even a prison sentence. Christmas should be a time for a celebration not a night in the cells.'

And the Association of Chief Police Officers is also warning drivers that you don't need to be in a collision or commit an offence to be stopped and breathalysed.

Chief Constable Mick Giannasi explained: 'Police officers can stop any vehicle at any time, day or night. They do not have to have a reason.

'If you are stopped, and there is any suspicion that you have been drinking, then you will almost certainly be asked to provide a breath test. People should be in no doubt that if they are found to be over the limit they will be brought before the courts.

'We are not trying to be Christmas killjoys, but partygoers need to make sure that they enjoy the festive season responsibly.'
It's certainly an important message and one other motoring organisations have got behind too. The head of road safety for the AA told Autoblog it's vital motorists heed the advice.

'Drivers should remember the police try to breathalyse all drivers involved in accidents, whether or not they are to blame,' said the AA's Andrew Howard.

'This leaves them wide open to prosecution if they are over the limit when involved in an accident the next morning. This is a particularly important point for people who have been drinking heavily, drinking into the early hours of the morning, or who drive particularly early in the day.'

The Institute of Advanced Motorists' policy director Neil Greig agreed wholeheartedly with Brake's safety message, but said it had concerns about its call for lowering the drink drive limit.

He told Autoblog: 'Most drivers do not drink and drive. The IAM does not oppose a lower limit - it could send a powerful signal to anti-social drivers that drinking and driving is unacceptable in today's society. However, imposition of a lower limit must not divert police resources from catching the most dangerous offenders who pay little regard to limits set at any level.

'In the meantime, the IAM advice remains: Don't drink and drive, and don't travel with a driver who has been drinking.'

This year, many pubs and clubs across the country are offering the designated driver free soft drinks. Ask at the bar if your chosen drinking establishment is taking part.

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