The Christmas season will bring with it, we hope, great joy and celebration. However, Christmas is also a time when even the otherwise law-abiding can find themselves in trouble with the law. Whether it results from a mere miscalculation or an acceptance of just one more well-intentioned invitation to unwind with a drink, each year, many upstanding citizens inadvertently fall foul of the UK’s drink driving laws.
With the police taking their ever watchful approach, nobody who oversteps the mark can consider themselves beyond detection or prosecution. Dorset Police’s seasonal drink and drug driving campaign is well and truly underway and runs from 1 December 2018 to 1 January 2019.
What are the statistics?
The latest figures released earlier this year by the Department for Transport indicate that about 9,040 people were killed or injured in Britain in drink driving accidents in 2016. That was the highest total since 2012. The results of Dorset Police’s Christmas drink and drug driving campaign in the same year show that 14% of tests resulted in an arrest.
Following a crackdown this summer, the National Police Chiefs’ Council released statistics indicating that one in ten people breathalysed for alcohol failed the test. That proportion is likely to be higher over Christmas.
The summer campaign also highlighted, startlingly, that more than 50% of those tested for drug driving failed. Officers use “drugalysers” at the roadside to check for cocaine and cannabis, and a blood test may be used at a police station to check for ecstasy and heroin.
What everyone has in mind, including during the court process, is the devastating consequences of motor accidents on victims and their families. The campaigns, crackdowns and prosecutions are intended to have a deterrent effect as well as to punish the offenders.
A drink or drug driving conviction will itself have lasting consequences. Those include that:
- Those convicted are frequently “named and shamed” in the local press.
- Convictions carry a risk of imprisonment.
- A minimum 12 month driving disqualification will almost certainly apply. That may bring with it the prospect of loss of employment or other hardship.
- A second conviction within 10 years of the first will automatically result in a 3 year disqualification.
- The fact of the conviction will continue to be disclosable to insurers for many years into the future, bringing with it significantly increased premiums.
That is not to say that all of those consequences are brought to bear in every case. Some alleged offenders may have a defence, and some may have significant mitigation which can operate to reduce the sentence if they are convicted. A few may also be able to avoid disqualification altogether if “special reasons” can be shown to exist. It is, therefore, worth those who find themselves on the wrong end of the law seeking legal advice.
Of course, none of that is a substitute for not running the risk in the first place. Home breathalysers are more freely available and cheaper than ever, and free online tools provide useful guidance about the length of time which needs to pass before getting behind the wheel after some festive cheer.
Guy Gosheron is a Barrister at Lester Aldridge LLP who specialises in road traffic offences. He can be contacted on (01202) 786227 or by e-mail. More details about our services and pricing can be found here.