Swanswell calls for final whistle on drink-driving as licensing hours relaxed for World Cup

31 March 2014

Swanswell’s calling for the final whistle on drink-driving by urging motorists to think twice about drinking alcohol while watching late World Cup games this summer, if they’re planning to get behind the wheel the next morning.

The national recovery charity’s warning people to take care after the Home Office announced today that restrictions on licensing hours will be relaxed for all of England’s games during the month-long tournament.

It means that pubs and bars will be allowed to stay open until 1am on those days because the government sees it as an ‘occasion of exceptional national significance’, similar to the Royal Wedding and Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

However, Swanswell’s concerned that extended opening hours could increase the risk of people being over the limit when they get behind the wheel the next day, particularly for games kicking off late because of the time difference and those held mid-week.

England’s opening game against Italy starts at 11pm on Saturday 14 June, followed by an 8pm kick-off for the game against Uruguay on Thursday 19 June. The semi-final will take place at 9pm on Wednesday 09 July and the final is at 8pm on Sunday 13 July (BBC Sport).

In 2012, 280 people were killed in drink drive-related accidents in the UK, accounting for around one in six of all road deaths – an increase of 17% compared to the previous year (240 deaths in 2011).

While fewer people are driving the same night as drinking, more are getting behind the wheel the next morning, even though they could still be over the legal drink drive limit.

More than half of young drivers and over a third of older motorists drive first thing in the morning after drinking heavily the previous night, according to research from road safety charity Brake – many don’t realise they could still be over the legal limit (Drinkaware).

Alcohol is removed from the blood at a rate of around one unit an hour. If someone had six pints of 4% lager (at around 2.3 units a pint), it would take at least 14 hours to clear their system – yet people are often driving only a few hours after finishing their last drink.

Debbie Bannigan, Swanswell’s Chief Executive, said: ‘Celebrating national occasions such as the World Cup should be memorable - but not for the wrong reasons.

Late kick-offs and longer opening hours, tied in with some mid-week games, could mean more people are getting behind the wheel the next morning while they’re still over the limit, putting their own lives and the lives of others at risk.

It’s important to plan ahead to help you stay safe - if you’re choosing to drink alcohol on a night out and plan to drive the next day, stick within recommended daily limits, alternate alcoholic drinks with soft drinks, and have lower strength drinks.

It’s also important to stop drinking alcohol well before the end of the night, so your body can process the alcohol before you intend to drive the next day.’

However, it’s still difficult to know exactly when it’s safe to drive the next day. Hand-held breathalysers are becoming an increasingly popular tool which helps drivers know when it’s safe to drive the next morning.

Debbie added: ‘In some countries, such as France, it’s a legal requirement to carry a self-test breathalyser in your car, which will encourage drivers to ensure they are alcohol-free before getting behind the wheel.

While it’s not currently law to carry such devices in the UK, we think it’s an inexpensive and useful tool to have in your vehicle anyway, helping you to stay safe, while keeping healthy and ultimately, feeling happy.’

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