Monday, 6 October 2008

Luke McCormick, and the little weapons we drive

What a day for the government to decide against cutting the drink-drive limit! The very day that footballer Luke McCormick is jailed for 7 years for drunkenly smashing into another car, killing two young boys and inflicting crippling injuries on their father.

At first glance, the two major news stories don't seem to be related. McCormick was driving at double the limit anyway. The planned reduction - from 80 to 50mg per unit of blood - wouldn't have had any bearing in his case. And according to campaigners for the current limit, the biggest threat comes from drivers who seriously overstep the current limit, rather than those who are just within it.

I understand that argument, but it misses a crucial point. The current limit lets you get away with about a pint of beer. And that gives the impression that it's OK to have a drink and drive, so long as you're careful not to overdo it. In truth though, it's impossible to tell whether or not you're safe behind the wheel. If you're a big ginger lightweight like me, you might be floored by half a lager. If you have the heart and stomach of a fluffy concrete elephant, you might be fine. There's no way of knowing.

Once you establish a principle like "one drink is OK, but don't overdo it," you're inviting people to try and judge a limit which simply cannot be judged. And once they're a few pints down the line, at several times the legal limit, and with their judgement substantially impaired, they're much more likely to think to themselves "I've only had a few - I should be fine."

A limit of 50mg, or even 20mg, would send a very clear signal: just don't do it, at all! The limit isn't there to let people have bit of a drink and still drive. It's there to protect sober people from being arrested because of a small amount of leftover alcohol in their system; that's literally all it should do.

As things stand, we send a badly mixed message. All those taxpayer-funded public safety adverts say "Think! Don't drink and drive", whereas our legal system says "Have maybe one, then see how you feel." With a setup like that, is it any wonder that we breed drivers like McCormick?

3 comments:

Sara said...

I strongly agree with this. I have a rule of not drinking at all when I am driving - just because then I don't have to second guess when I am able to drive.

I would like to have a limit of 40mg, rather thna zero, so that you are not caught out by the tiny remnants of a glass of wine at lunchtime or a few the night before.

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