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In the past few weeks there have been many stories hitting the headlines in the UK around drink driving, including celebrities who have been caught driving whilst over the limit, as well as the fatal collision on the M1 recently involving two lorries and a minibus where the driver of one of the lorries was nearly twice England’s legal drink drive limit.

It appears from provisional figures that in 2015 the number of drunk drivers involved in an accident had risen for the first time in a decade with 3,540 drivers failing a breath test after a crash compared to 3,277 in 2014.

We all seem to know the risk of driving under the influence, with many safety campaigns being aired around the run up to Christmas, but why do we still have a high level of prosecutions and incidents relating to drink driving?

England, Wales and Northern Ireland currently have a higher drink drive limit than Scotland. Malta is the only other country in Europe working to the same drink drive level as England, Wales and Northern Ireland. There is a growing consensus that England, Wales and Northern Ireland should follow Scotland’s lead in reducing the drink drive limit. During the first 9 months of lowering the drink drive limit in Scotland, in December 2014 there was a 12.5% decrease in drink driving offences.

In 2010, the Government commissioned Sir Peter North to conduct the North Review of Drink and Drug Driving Law. RoSPA gave evidence to the review and called for a lower limit, based on evidence that:

  • Drivers with a breath alcohol concentration of between 22mcg/100ml and 35mcg/100ml are 2-2.5 times more likely to be involved in an accident than drivers with no alcohol, and up to 6 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash.
  • In 2000, the Government’s Road Safety Strategy estimated that reducing the limit to 22mcg/100ml breath alcohol concentration could save 50 lives and prevent 250 serious injuries each year. A later examination of the figures suggested it could save 65 lives each year and prevent 230 serious injuries.
  • An International review of the impact of introducing or lowering drink drive limits found that they resulted in fewer drink drive accidents, deaths and injuries. 

In 2011 the Government decided not to lower the limit as they concluded that improving enforcement is likely to have more impact on the most dangerous drink drivers, than lowering the drink drive limit, which they did not believe would be cost-effective.

Looking at the UK workplace there are many examples of companies adopting a lower alcohol limit such as the Network Rail standard of 13mcg/100ml breath alcohol concentration or others who opt for the Scottish limit of 22mcg/100ml breath alcohol concentration as they understand the risks of having the higher level which certainly seems sensible and justified.

The recent prosecution of Kirsty Gallacher is a reminder of the ‘morning after’ and still being above the drink drive limit even though the driver may feel OK. There are many people at work today across the UK who had one too many last night who may not realise they are not legal to drive, let alone the possibility of working in a safety critical environment.

When you think about the risks of someone being behind the wheel of a HGV whilst under the influence it is a pretty scary thought. When driving under the influence your senses are impaired, you lose the ability to judge stoppage distances correctly and have slower reaction times. This increases the chance of a collision or accident.

Within your own company it is important to raise the awareness of the risks not only for driving roles but all job roles – this can be via awareness literature and briefing sessions. It is also important to have a policy that is clear on what is and is not acceptable regarding alcohol and drugs when an employee is at work. It is still surprising how many companies, including large multinational companies, have no policy or procedure in place to address the issue of alcohol and drugs misuse in the workplace.

We recently worked with a large distribution company who have provided the following statement:

"Brakes is the leading food service company in the U.K and with our drivers travelling thousands of miles to deliver our products every day, we have to make sure that we are operating safely. We've always had a substance misuse policy but have recently  made it even more stringent by adopting the lower Scottish limit. We've also extended the policy to include everyone with a company car or car allowance as we believe that anyone working on behalf of our business in any capacity must be doing so safely. The new stricter policy has been supported by an extensive education campaign to all our people and we have brought in random testing to make sure it is effective."

Hampton Knight works closely with UK industry, as well as safety groups to raise the profile of alcohol and drugs and the effects of being impaired at work. Should you need any support please do contact us to discuss further.