Swanswell’s morning-after drink-drive warning to festive party-goers

28 November 2014

Swanswell's urging party-goers to think before they drink over the festive season, especially if they’re planning to get behind the wheel the next morning.

With a month of celebrations around the corner, the national recovery charity is raising awareness of the consequences of morning-after drink-driving, as millions prepare for weeknight office parties or time out with friends and family.

Traditionally, alcohol consumption increases by 40% during December and with it comes the increased risk of drivers being over the limit the next day, particularly if they’ve been out drinking late the night before and have to drive to work or do the school run.

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 many hours after they’ve finished drinking, and that common myths about sleep, coffee and showers – among others – speeding up the recovery process aren’t true.

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: ‘For many, the festive season is a time for celebration it’s easy to stay late for one extra drink before you get a taxi home, ahead of a busy day at work or because you’ve got to do the school run in the morning.

Some people think that after a sleep, shower and a coffee, they’ll be safe to drive the next day – however, the reality soon sets in that they’re not, particularly after they’re pulled over by the police, breathalysed and arrested because they’re still over the limit.

Before they know it, they’re facing a New Year with a large fine, driving ban and a potential prison sentence because they didn’t realise how long alcohol stays in the body.

The best advice if you’re planning on driving the next day is not to drink at all the night before – but if you do, limit your drinking and stop early on, so there’s plenty of time for the alcohol to leave your system before driving the next morning.’

Better information is also key, and Swanswell is calling for compulsory drink-drive education workshops to be introduced into the learner driver process, so that people are aware of the consequences of drink-driving.

Debbie added: ‘Drink-drive education already exists but it’s only offered to people when it’s too late – when they’ve been caught and convicted.

We believe if it’s offered to new drivers before they’ve passed their test, it’ll help them make informed decisions about their relationship with alcohol, and stop them getting behind the wheel after drinking in the first place.’    

A petition – which requires over 100,000 signatures to be considered for debate in the House of Commons – has been launched by the national charity to encourage decision-makers to introduce the workshops.

Video: What happens when you're pulled over on suspicion of drink-driving. 

You can also read the latest blog from our Chief Executive, Debbie Bannigan, about how to avoid morning-after regrets when planning a works festive party.  

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