Partner and Head of Wills & Estate Planning at Andrew & Co Solicitors Helen Newson writes...
Seasonal Advice to Drivers
- AuthorMichael Pace
Nottinghamshire Police and Lincolnshire Road Safety Partnership have both recently launched their Christmas drink-drive campaigns warning drivers that they will do more spot checks to catch those driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol over the festive period.
Despite the warnings, every year a large number of drivers break the law over the festive period and as a result are disqualified from driving for a minimum of 12 months. Between 1st December 2015 and 1st January 2016, 98 people were charged in Nottinghamshire for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The picture is no better across the border. According to a study by Road Safety Analysis of car drivers who were under the influence of alcohol at the time of a crash, drivers from Lincolnshire were 71% more likely to be considered over the limit than the national norm.
I am often asked by drivers, what is a safe amount to drink before driving? The legal limits are 35 micrograms per 100 millilitres in breath, 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres in blood and 107 milligrams per 100 millilitres in urine. However, the only useful answer is nothing at all. This is because there are many factors which influence how our bodies react to alcohol including when and how much alcohol we last drank, how much we have eaten and how much water we’ve drunk that day, among many others.
A lot of people get caught driving while over the limit on their way to work the morning after the night before. Sometimes this is after they have been in an accident which was not necessarily their fault. The police will usually test all drivers in an accident, even those deemed not to be at fault.
If you have been at a party the night before and had a lot to drink, there is a good chance you will still be over the limit in the morning. I've heard people say that your body will dissipate alcohol at the rate of half a pint or even one pint per hour (half a pint of beer is roughly one unit) but in fact there is no accurate guide. Do you want to take the risk when you cannot recall how much you actually had to drink?
If you are stopped and asked by a constable in uniform to provide a sample of breath, you must go along with the request even if you have not had a drink, because a refusal can result in being disqualified from driving for 12 months.
If you fail the roadside test you will be arrested and taken to a police station where after being booked in you will again be asked to provide two samples of breath by blowing into a machine called an intoxilyser.
The constable will read from a form and ask lots of questions. These may seem tedious but you must go along with the procedure. Do not refuse to give a sample.
Even if you ask for legal advice, the police do not need to hold up the testing procedure and can insist on going ahead. You can have your advice later. The whole thing will be recorded on CCTV which can be reviewed by your solicitor at a later time to check things were done properly.
If you are over the limit the police will take you to court and unless you have a defence (which is not usually the case), and you can expect to be disqualified on the day you go to court.
If you find yourself in this situation is important to seek legal advice well before the court date if you can, as this may make a difference to the sentence.
Of course, my advice is don’t drink any alcohol before getting behind the wheel, but if you do, be aware its at your own risk.