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We need to talk about Drink & Drug driving


Posted on 06/12/17

Drink driving is a scourge on our roads every Christmas. Most of us wouldn’t even dream of getting behind the wheel of a car drunk – we know it’s dangerous, AND selfish AND irresponsible. 

But a quick look at the PSNI road casualty statistics would show you that this is still a big problem on our roads – and it’s getting worse

Since 2013, the number of people killed and injured on our roads where the driver was drunk or on drugs has been steadily on the rise. 2016 saw a rise of 28% on the 2013 casualties caused by these irresponsible drivers. 

In general, we associate drink driving with older drivers who didn’t get the memo that Hello !!  it’s not the 70s anymore!! It’s NOT OK  to drive home after a bout of drinking – Case in point, NI football manager Martin O’Neill who recently pleaded guilty to drink driving offences after being caught behind the wheel more than 3 times over the drink driving limit.

But what about the morning after? 

It takes a while for alcohol to break down and leave the body. On average it takes one hour for your body to break down one unit of alcohol. But as this is a biological process, the length of time will vary from person to person depending on a number of factors including weight, gender, age and even the type of alcohol or if you have eaten food. It you have had a heavy night, you could be well over the drink driving limit the next morning. 

Road safety charity Brake recommend this ‘Morning after drink-drive calculator’ that can make you aware of just how how long alcohol can linger in your system and impair your driving. 

But drink driving isn’t the only thing we need to worry about. Younger drivers are engaging in something equally dangerous and sinister – drug driving

In the 12 months leading to April 2016, almost 600 drivers in Northern Ireland were caught driving while on drugs with the PSNI saying the majority of offenders were young drivers.

The effect of these drugs on the driver’s brain range from drowsiness, confusion and delayed reactions to experiencing a rush of adrenalin making drivers feel over confident and taking risks on the road. 

The most common drugs detected are Cannabis, Cocaine & Ecstasy with many people mixing both drugs and alcohol for an even more lethal cocktail. Research has shown that driving having consumed both cannabis and alcohol would leave you a massive 16 times more likely to have an accident.

And the consequences of drink/drug driving accident are huge. 

The heart-breaking death of 18 year old Enda Dolan in October 2014 puts a human face on the high costs of drink/drug driving.  He had just started his first year of Architecture at Queen’s and was walking home to his halls when an out of control van mounted the pavement and struck him. 

The driver, who had taken drugs and at least 13 drinks, did not stop after striking Enda and fled the scene before finally coming to a stop after crashing into a lamppost. 

This driver ended up getting a nine year sentence, with half to be served in prison, but many feel that the penalties for drink/drug driving don’t go far enough.

In NI, if you are find driving while above the legal limit or unfit through drink or drugs you could get: 
six months’ imprisonment
a fine of up to £5,000
a ban from driving for at least 12 months or three years if convicted twice in 10 years
a driving test before your licence is returned

Last year over the festive period, the PSNI discovered 383 to be over the limit when they were breathalysed at the side of the road. 85% of these drivers were male.
The PSNI say that these drivers were the lucky ones, as they were taken off the road before they could hurt themselves or other road users.

The message from the police is simple:

'DO NOT drink and drive'


"If you find yourself asking the question: 'Am I safe to drive?' the answer is you're not."

Seriously. No one wants to stop you from enjoying yourself, but if you are under the influence, just get a taxi

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