World Cup: Swanswell shows red card to morning-after drink-driving

04 June 2014

Swanswell’s calling for morning-after drink-driving to be given the red card ahead of the World Cup in Brazil.

The national recovery charity, which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug use, is raising awareness of the consequences of getting behind the wheel after a heavy night of alcohol use.

With many of the games kicking off at 8pm or 11pm – including England’s opener against Italy – due to the time difference, pubs have been allowed to open until 1am for selected matches, meaning thousands of fans will be out drinking late during the week.        

Swanswell’s concerned it will put lives at risk as motorists could still be over the drink-drive limit the next day when they’re on the school run or driving to work, without realising.              

Provisional figures estimate that 280 people were killed in drink drive-related accidents in 2012 (most recent figures available), accounting for around one in five deaths on Britain’s roads.

Around 18% of drink-drive accidents happen the morning after (between 4am and 12pm) – it’s not surprising, as research found more than half of young drivers (53%) and over a third of older motorists (36%) risked lives by driving the morning after drinking.

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 at the time.

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 a driver had five pints of 5% lager (2.8 units each), it would take at least 16 hours for the alcohol to leave the body and for it to be safe to drive. Similarly, 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 World Cup is a time for celebration but for some, it can also be a time for commiseration – particularly if your team loses out in extra time or penalties.

But, just imagine if you’re the one losing out because you had another drink in extra time, you get in your car the next morning to go to work or to take your children to school, and you’re pulled over by the police.

Before you know it, you’re asked to provide a breath test and are arrested because the alcohol from last night is still in your system – you are over the drink-drive limit.

You could be the one facing penalties – if convicted, you’ll receive a large fine, get a driving ban and can even be given a prison sentence.

Having any amount of alcohol in the body can affect judgement and reaction times, so Swanswell’s urging people to think twice before putting lives at risk.

Debbie added: ‘There’s no easy way to know if you’re under the limit or safe to drive and alcohol affects people in different ways, so we’d recommend not drinking at all if you’re planning on getting behind the wheel the next day.

If you do drink alcohol on a night out, stick to recommended limits, alternate an alcoholic drink with a soft drink, have lower strength alcoholic drinks, and stop drinking well before the end of the night to allow the body to process alcohol before the morning.’

Hand-held breathalysers are another way of helping people understand when it’s safe to drive the next day.

In some countries, such as France, it’s a legal requirement to carry a self-test breathalyser to ensure drivers are not over the limit, something that could be beneficial to introduce in the UK, so more lives aren’t put at risk by drivers who are over the limit.

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