Saving lives: Swanswell calls on MPs to introduce compulsory drink-drive workshops

09 October 2014

Compulsory workshops around drink-driving should be introduced into the driver learning process to help save lives, according to Swanswell.

The national recovery charity, which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug use, is calling for better education as part of a wider campaign to end road deaths and injuries caused by alcohol (and drug) use.

Over the last few weeks, Swanswell has held fringe events at Labour (Manchester), Conservative (Birmingham) and Liberal Democrats (Glasgow) Party Conferences to raise awareness of drink-driving and introduce a simple solution that could stop it happening.

In 2012, 230 people died in drink-drive incidents and almost 10,000 more were either injured or seriously injured, costing society hundreds of millions of pounds a year to deal with.

Although education already exists around the effects of alcohol on judgement, reaction times and someone’s ability to drive safely, Swanswell has been asking conference delegates about whether this information is in the right place.

Currently, drivers are only offered practical courses about the impact alcohol has on their ability to be safe behind the wheel once they’ve been convicted of drink-driving – when the damage has already been done.  

Swanswell believes that short, practical workshops – like those already available to drink-drivers – should be open to everyone, as a compulsory part of the driver learning process, to help people understand the risks before they can drive.

Debbie Bannigan, Swanswell’s Chief Executive, said: ‘Drink-driving costs hundreds of lives every year and affects thousands more who have to pick up the pieces.

However, these deaths and injuries are entirely preventable through better education and clearer information, much of which is currently only available after someone has been caught and convicted of drink-driving.  

So, Swanswell is asking the decision-makers to make this education available sooner – at the beginning of the driver learning process – to ensure everyone is clear of the dangers of getting behind the wheel after drinking alcohol.

People using our court-mandated drink-drive awareness courses often tell us that they would not have driven after drinking, if they’d known what they did after completing the programme – that for us, speaks volumes.’

The campaign is being supported by Jane Marsh from Warwickshire, whose 20-year-old daughter Kelly lost her life after the car she was a passenger in hit a tree on a bend in November 2005.

The 19-year-old driver was almost twice the legal limit – she received minor injuries.

Jane said: ‘Kelly’s last few moments of her life were sheer terror, I know – I saw it etched on her beautiful face while she laid there in the cold mortuary. She didn’t deserve to die in such a horrific way. No one should.       

Kelly’s human right to live was taken away because someone wanted a drink and thought it was ok to get behind the wheel. Far too many people play Russian roulette with people’s lives every day – there are too many stories like ours, my Kel’s.

I simply do not have the words to tell you what the pain of missing our Kel is like, not just on special days but every single day.

So all I can do is beg all of you with the means to influence and change the law to remember Kel and my family, and the thousands of other families affected by drink-drivers – make education, zero tolerance and tougher penalties your objectives for change.’

Swanswell has also launched a petition calling on the government to introduce compulsory workshops. To find out more about our drink-drive campaign, click here

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