Driving Home (Safely) for Christmas
Christmas might be the most wonderful time of the year, but unfortunately crashes do still occur on the roads. In fact, during the festive period, there is an increase in the number of collisions on the roads of Britain. This is likely due to people driving more to visit friends and family, attend Christmas parties, and not to mention those last minute shopping trips when you’ve forgotten to buy your significant other a present!
It goes without saying that drink driving is illegal, but do you know the legal drink drive limit in England, Wales and Northern Ireland?
The legal limit varies depending on how it is tested, the drink driving limit for drivers is:
- 80 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood (the ‘blood limit’),
- 35 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath (the ‘breath limit’),
- 107 milligrammes per 100 millilitres of urine (the ‘urine limit’).
But what do these figures really mean? It’s easy to be confused by these figures and this has led to common sayings such as “you can have one” or “you’ve had a meal, you’ll be fine”. However, even small amounts of alcohol can affect your ability to perform basic tasks, let alone something more complex such as driving.
This means there is no reliable way to drink and stay within the limit. The advice from the police is clear; avoid alcohol altogether if you plan to drive. This can be done by nominating a ‘Designated Driver’ at the beginning of the outing. If you are the nominated driver, try to ensure you plan ahead and stick to alcohol free drinks or alcohol free alternatives which many people feel taste the same.
Police statistics show that fatigue contributes to about 4% of fatal road crashes and 2% of all collisions in Britain. However, it is likely that the true figures are far higher because fatigue is hard to spot and unlike alcohol and drugs, police can’t test for tiredness.
Research even suggests that driving when tired can be as dangerous as drink-driving. Factors that can contribute to driver fatigue can include; stress, lack of sleep and driving long distances. As the Christmas period can be stressful, tiring and you may need to travel distances to see relatives during the holidays, it is likely that you will become fatigued.
Now to put this into a driving context once more, as previously mentioned, being tired is just as dangerous as being drunk behind the wheel. Therefore, the risks associated with drink driving, such as reduced mental capacity, being easily distracted, indecisiveness, and slow response times also apply. All of these lead to a dangerous state behind the wheel and contribute to numerous accidents every year.
Warning signs of fatigue include:
- increased difficulty concentrating
- heavy eyelids
- eyes starting to ‘roll’
- nodding head
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms try to avoid driving and catch up on sleep that you may have missed. If driving is essential, make sure you take regular breaks to ensure you are not at risk of falling asleep at the wheel.
Driving around Christmas can be particularly stressful. However, when we’re angry, annoyed and frustrated, we’re not thinking straight which can lead us to making bad decisions behind the wheel and increases the chances of us having a crash.
If you are able to, you should avoid travelling at the busiest and most stressful times of the day. It is often better to travel early in the morning or late at night.
You should also consult online traffic guides before setting off on your journey. Google Maps has live traffic information and will show you the best route for your journey. Furthermore, Highways England is also useful in that it records planned motorway roadworks so you can see how your journey might be affected ahead of time.
Before you attend a Christmas party, make sure you have pre-planned how you are going to get home. If you intend to travel by train, make sure you make a note of the last train time. If you intend to take a taxi, it is best to pre-book or know of a reputable taxi company that you can call. You don’t want to be in a situation where you are forced to take an unlicensed taxi or wait around in the dark on your own for a taxi to arrive.
If you’re driving the morning after a Christmas party, remember that every unit of alcohol takes a minimum of an hour to pass through your bloodstream once you’ve stopped drinking. Drinkaware have developed an app which allows you to record your drinks and keep tabs on the number of units you’ve consumed. This will be helpful in letting you know when it is safe to get behind the wheel.
Christmas is a stressful time of the year for many people and this is only referring to what’s going on inside your vehicle. Outside of your vehicle, the roads may be icy, frozen, flooded, and contaminated with snow. It may also be raining or there may be reduced visibility. All of these factors can affect your reaction time behind the wheel as you are not able to see hazards as early as you would in ideal conditions. Even when you do spot the hazard it’s going to take you longer to slow down and come to a stop.
Please, when driving, especially over the festive period, ensure your vehicle is safe and road legal, make sure you’re in the right physical and mental state to take to the wheel. Although we may be in a rush to get places, it’s always better to arrive somewhere late than to not arrive at all.