A solicitor specialising in road traffic offences is warning motorists against a range of pitfalls that could see them become unwitting drink drivers this Christmas.
Jeremy Sirrell, a Partner at Palmers Solicitors, which has offices in Basildon, Rayleigh, Thurrock and South Woodham Ferrers, made the comments as the Christmas party season gets into full swing.
“The typical image of a drunk driver is of someone who has drunk far too much and then got behind the wheel.
“However, it is surprisingly easy to commit a drink driving-related offence without realising or become involved in an accident because of impairment, particularly over the Christmas and New Year party season.
“That is why I am sharing my list of six common errors that could see motorists at risk of a drink-driving conviction or a collision,” said Jeremy.
1. Misunderstanding how alcohol builds up in the body - the ‘second drink effect’:
The time it takes the body to process a unit of alcohol means that a second drink can have a bigger impact on blood alcohol content than the first as, in effect, it can’t start processing the second drink until it has finished processing the first. In the meantime, the alcohol builds up in the bloodstream.
Likewise, drinking a pint of beer quickly can lead to a larger build-up of alcohol in the bloodstream than drinking the same amount more slowly, giving time for the body to begin processing the alcohol.
2. The variation in the strength of similar drinks:
There might be hardly any difference in the appearance and taste of four per cent pint of beer, compared with a five per cent pint of beer. However, whilst these are only one percentage point different in alcohol content there is 25 per cent more alcohol in a five per cent beer.
That can really add up, especially when you take into account the ‘second drink effect’.
3. The popularity of high-strength drinks, such as craft beers and gin:
Whereas a few years ago it would have been nearly impossible to find a nine per cent beer in a bar or pub, they are now commonplace with the rise of craft breweries. It can be much more difficult to gauge the effect this is having on you and can quickly raise your blood alcohol content. The same applies to gin, which has also seen an explosion in popularity in recent years.
4. Hidden alcohol in food:
While levels of alcohol in food are generally very low and you would have to eat a vast amount to end up over the limit, the ‘second drink effect’ still applies. If your body is still processing alcohol that you have drunk, any extra alcohol you consume will go straight into your bloodstream, with the potential to put you over the limit.
5. Being drunk in charge:
You don’t actually have to drive to be at risk of committing a drink-driving related offence, nor do you necessarily need to be in a vehicle. If you were to go to your vehicle in a public place while holding the keys, in order to remove your coat from the boot, you would be at risk of a conviction for being drunk in charge of a motor vehicle. Likewise, you could be convicted if you were sitting in the back seat of a stationary vehicle with the keys in your possession.
6. Getting behind the wheel the next day:
There is increasing awareness of the risk of still being over the limit the next day, particularly with the police carrying out high-profile Christmas drink driving campaigns focusing on morning commuters.
However, these pitfalls can also work together. Someone who might normally have six pints of four per cent beer late in the evening, who has the same amount of five per cent beer instead, is effectively drinking an extra pint and a half on top of what they would normally drink. Coupled with the ‘second drink effect’, this could have a major impact on blood alcohol content the next morning.
Jeremy said: “These could be surprisingly easy mistakes to make. My message to motorists is don’t be an unwitting drink driver this Christmas.
“The biggest danger of drink driving is causing death or injury to yourself or other people, but the penalties for being caught over the limit are also severe, with hefty fines, significant driving bans and even imprisonment available to the courts.”
For more information, please visit www.palmerslaw.co.uk