The police have heard them all before: “I was only sitting in the car”, “I didn’t realise how much alcohol was in my cocktail” and “I was just moving to a safer place”.
These are just some of the many excuses motorists come up with when they have been stopped by the traffic cops for suspected drinking and driving. Many of the explanations are just ways for drivers to get away with their tippling transgression, some are plain stupidity and yet more are simple myths that drivers really believed would make them immune to drink drive prosecution.
Every year around 55,000 people in England and Wales are convicted of drink-driving related offences, according to Department of Transport statistics. And with recent figures showing that each year on average 7,860 people are seriously injured and 280 are killed due to drink-driving, getting behind the wheel after drinking alcohol is a more serious offence than some might think. The courts don’t: the offence carries a minimum 12-month driving ban.
Now an expert motoring lawyer has shed some light on the top ten reasons why people are convicted of drink driving. And whether they are fact, fiction or just stupidity, they can all land the driver with a serious penalty.
Manjinder Kang, of Birmingham-based motoring specialists Kang & Co Solicitors, helps to bust some of the myths around the offence to raise awareness of why it should always be “none for the road”.
1. I only moved the car 10 metres
How far you drive the car is irrelevant. Being behind the wheel of a car while under the influence of alcohol is an offence.
When you have alcohol in your system, your reaction times and perceptions are impaired – which means that even moving your car a short distance to park it carries a risk.
2. I didn’t think I would still have alcohol in my system
This is one of the most common misconceptions. People think that once they have slept they won’t have alcohol in their system the next day.
It can take on average an hour for every unit of alcohol you drink to leave your system. However, there are no hard rules and it relies on many factors including metabolism, alcohol strength and body mass index.
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3. I had a big meal so it should have sobered me up
Nothing but time will help to get rid of the alcohol in your system as your liver chemically breaks down the alcohol and eliminates it from your body.
So even if you have a coffee, a cold shower or eat your body weight in nachos it will not help sober you up any quicker.
4. I was only sitting in the car listening to music
It is an offence to be drunk in charge of a vehicle, ie in possession of the keys – even if you are not driving. So, sitting in the car without the engine on is not a defence.
5. I only had two drinks so I wasn’t drunk
The legal limit is 35mg of alcohol in breath and not related to the number of drinks you consume. There is no way of knowing how much alcohol you can drink and still be under the drink-drive limit.
There are many factors that influence how alcohol is absorbed in your body including; how much you drink, how fast you’re drinking, your body mass index, your metabolism, and the strength of alcohol in your drinks. A pint of shandy is not the same as a large glass of wine or a cocktail, but not drinking any alcohol while driving will always be the safest option.
6. It was only a quick drink to settle my nerves
Known as the ‘hip flask’ defence some drivers reach for the bottle to steady their nerves after a crash. They may not have been drinking when they had the accident but when the police turn up the driver is tested and over the limit.
If you are involved in an accident, never be tempted to try to steady your nerves with alcohol – you could find yourself in a much worse position.
7. I thought I would get points on my licence; why did I get a driving ban?
A drink-driving conviction carries a minimum 12-month driving ban and can go up to three years and result in a prison sentence – even for a first offence. If you are caught drink driving twice within a ten-year period, your second offence also carries a minimum three-year driving ban.
As a criminal conviction, any offence will also need to be declared to your employer and will show on future DBS checks for up to five years. A driving conviction will also need to be declared on your car insurance until it is spent and will probably increase your premiums.
8. If I refuse to be breathalysed they cannot prosecute me
If you are tempted to refuse to be breathalysed to avoid being caught, think again. Refusing to provide a specimen will be classed as obstructing a police officer and the penalty will automatically be harsher – whether you were actually over the limit or not.
9. They can’t ban me from driving if it is going to cause family hardship
There are cases where you can put forward an argument in court which is called ‘exceptional hardship’. If you can show a ban would cause increased hardship to your family by resulting in you losing your job, risk you losing your home or being unable to provide for your family, the courts can show leniency and revoke a ban.
This is not possible with a drink-driving offence. Regardless of the impact, the minimum driving ban for drink-driving is 12 months and you cannot argue ‘exceptional hardship’ to avoid or lower a ban.
10. I won’t get prosecuted as long as I’m under the limit
Even if you produce a specimen that shows that you are under the legal blood or in breath alcohol limit, you can still be prosecuted for being impaired through drink or drugs.
As alcohol affects everyone differently, many drivers can be significantly impaired below the legal limit of 80mg in 100ml of blood. Police will carry out a Field Impairment Test and if you are shown to be ‘impaired’ due to alcohol then you will still receive a year’s ban.
‘None for the road’ is always best
“The message is simple. If you are looking to get behind the wheel of a car no alcohol is always best,” says Manjinder Kang. “It is surprising how many people do not understand the law when it comes to drinking and driving, and the ongoing consequences you face if convicted.
“Alcohol impairs your judgement and carries substantial risk, which is why if you are driving it is always best to have none for the road.”
- More information on the law and drink driving is available at: www.kangandco.co.uk
- More driving information and advice at The Car Expert