Better education key as one in five admit to morning-after drink-driving, says Swanswell

09 December 2014

Better alcohol education is key to helping people understand the risks of drink-driving according to Swanswell, as a new survey reveals a fifth of motorists have got behind the wheel the morning after a night of heavy drinking.

The national recovery charity is responding to research from the Automobile Association (AA), which also found that over half (54%) of those asked had recognised the risks of drink-driving by agreeing a designated driver for their night out (Daily Mail).

But 19% admitted to driving the next morning – when they could still be over the legal limit – according to the survey.

More than a third of drivers (37%) also said they drank lots of water to reduce the effects of a hangover, with almost half of younger drivers aged between 18 and 24 turning to a fried breakfast before getting behind the wheel the next day.

230 people lost their lives and almost 10,000 were either injured or seriously injured in drink-drive incidents in 2012 alone.

According to the most recent figures from the Department for Transport, around 35% of reported alcohol-related crashes happen between midnight and 6am, with a further 12% happening between 6am and midday.

Swanswell believes drivers simply aren’t aware that alcohol can still be in the system for hours after they’ve finished drinking, and that common hangover ‘remedies’, like drinking lots of water or eating a fried breakfast, are myths and don’t speed up the recovery process.

While there are strict limits in the UK around alcohol use before driving, it’s not easy to know when it’s safe to get behind the wheel the next day.

Alcohol affects people in different ways and many factors influence how quickly alcohol’s processed by the body, such as weight; age; sex; and metabolism; as well as the type and amount someone’s drinking; what they’ve recently eaten; and stress levels.

Generally, alcohol leaves the body at a rate of around one unit per hour, plus another two hours to allow for the first drink to be processed.

So, if someone had five pints of 5% lager (2.8 units each) on a night out, it would take at least 16 hours for the alcohol to leave the body and for it to be safe to drive. Five medium glasses (175ml) of 13% wine (2.3 units each) would take at least 13 hours to clear the system.

Debbie Bannigan, Swanswell’s Chief Executive, said: ‘The figures aren’t surprising to us but should act as a wake-up call to anyone who is thinking of getting behind the wheel the morning after a night of heavy drinking.

While it’s positive to see motorists recognise the immediate drink-drive risk by arranging a designated driver for a night out, many don’t realise how long it takes for alcohol to leave the body because they’re driving early the next day – when they could still be over the limit.

It only hits home when it’s too late and they’re pulled over by the police on the school run or on their way to work, breathalysed and arrested on suspicion of drink-driving.

Once convicted, they can face fines, a driving ban and even a prison sentence – they’re also sent on drink-drive education courses like those that we deliver. It’s here that they tell us they wouldn’t have got behind the wheel after drinking, if they knew what they did now after completing the programme.’

Swanswell has launched a petition calling on the government to introduce compulsory drink-drive education workshops for learner drivers, so that people are clear about the effects of alcohol on their ability to drive safely, before they get behind the wheel.

In the meantime, the national charity’s advice is clear. Debbie added: ‘The only way to be sure that you’re safe to drive the morning after, is to not drink at all on a night out. If you do, stop drinking early on and leave plenty of time before getting behind the wheel.’

To find out more about our drink-drive campaign and petition, visit our campaigns page.

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