Keeping drink-drive risks in the spotlight

Posted on October 23rd, 2012 by James Luckhurst

Keeping drink-drive risks in the spotlightA FEW days ago, a severe road accident occured in Belgium. A driver was on his way home after visiting an equestrian event. He had been drinking (a breath test showed 0.9mg, the legal limit is 0.5mg) and was driving at around 90 km/h on a road where the limit was 50km/h.

He lost control of his car and hit another one on the other side of the road. In this car, members of a family were also driving home. As a result of the crash, four out of five of the car’s occupants were killed.

Looking at it another way, the young father, who was not in the vehicle, lost his youngest daughter, his wife, his grandmother and his uncle, all in a split second. The only survivor was his son of 3 years old.

Significant progress has been made in dealing with drink-drivers, but the above event shows that effective enforcement must continue in order to reduce the incidence of fatal crashes where impairment by drugs or alcohol (or both) is a causation factor. It is also vital that road users do not become complacent in relation to the issue.

GEM continues to regard drink-driving as a significant risk to the safety of those who use our roads. Generally speaking, we welcome the occasions when the issue makes it onto the news agenda. Such was the case earlier this year when the French government announced a new road safety crackdown and required that every driver should carry a self-administered alcohol test kit. There were headlines across Europe, making it clear that the French authorities were ‘getting tough’ on drink-driving.

Alcohol is always a main topic of discussion in road safety. The French self-test kits raise awareness. But they may cause problems if people are buying them and then thinking that they can drink a particular amount before fearing that they are breaking the law. Also, what if the testing device used by the police officer at the roadside gives a different result from the driver’s device? That could be problematic. We are concerned that drivers may blindly rely on the result of the kit, rather than on their own sense, which could lull them into a false sense of security. Another concern, of course, is that a driver could perform a self-test whilst his or her blood alcohol level – and therefore the risk – is still rising.

Constant reminders to road users about drugs and alcohol are vital if they are to appreciate the risks they face by ignoring the rules. In this way, the topic of drink-driving – and its associated risks – remains firmly in the spotlight.