The subject of drink driving has recently intrigued me what with the Ant McPartlin stories in the UK headlines. I love these boys. I’m one of Dec’s biggest fans! He just delivered a masterclass of presenting on Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway without his best mate next to him.
I feel for Ant, he and his TV partner Declan Donnelly have successfully kept their off-screen lives private. Even their ‘tell-all’ biographies are carefully scripted and the duo has proved to never court the media with past sordid tales even if they had escapades to share.
As always with the UK press, the lines are blurred with Ant’s history of prescription drug abuse caused by mismanaged pain relief after a botched knee surgery, leading to a need for rehab and acknowledgement that he was having more than day-to-day stresses. I will never know what happens behind closed doors; celebrity or not. He has reason to be troubled and reasons to need support, to get better, to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
BUT mental health issues and driving under the influence are 2 separate issues.
It is not standard to say a person with mental health issues is immediately excused from making the right decision to be behind the wheel of a car after drinking.
What I do know is that over the past 4 decades, the UK Government marketing campaigns have created a positive culture that frowns upon drinking and driving however what was a surprise to read is that the legal drink driving limit in England and Wales has remained the same since it was first introduced in 1967.
I was surprised because whilst the alcohol content of drinks is unlikely to have increased over the years, the number of cars on the road has, the speed and technology of the cars has, the amount of booze we consume has and the pub/bar culture has.
To add to this surprise, I read further to find that England, Wales and Malta have the highest limits in the EU. I have witnessed and experienced crazy driving in continental Europe without a drop of alcohol, yet, all other European Union countries have a better, lower limit. [Whether the residents of the country adhere to this is another conversation!]. The Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia have 0, zero, acceptance of drink driving. The limit is zero for everyone: standard, commercial and novice drivers.
The UK police force are unable to allocate all their resources to scour the roads searching for culprits, as there will always be some that flout the rules, but if stopped or in an accident then the procedure is rigorous and the consequences concise – not necessarily absolute though.
From what I gauge thanks to our ‘delightful’ tabloid press is that Ant McPartlin crashed into one oncoming car and then likely to have bounced off this or overcompensated into another car in his path. A breathalyser test is mandatory for all traffic accidents attended by the Police, he failed this roadside breath test so he must have to be exceeding the limit.
After a couple of drinks, he may have thought “oh it’s okay, I’m only heading home, only round the corner”. He probably didn’t even think of the laws of the land. I bet many of you have done the same. Why do we do it? Why do we think this ‘one time’ won’t be an issue, won’t be the cause of an accident. I don’t think any of us really consider the consequences of our actions – to ourselves, those closest to us and definitely not anyone in our path.
The effect alcohol has on us is variable, the ability to drive is skewed in different ways on different days. Among the drinkers reading, I bet we’ve all thought about what we’ll eat before going out drinking for the day. We too automatically presume a petite 5′ woman will react differently to 4 pints compared to a bulky 6’2″ man.
When I lived in a town called Redditch in the middle of England, it was beneficial to have a car. A new style of town planning for the 1970s, everything was designed around a maze of dual carriageways. A town with multiple bus routes, it was still much easier to drive. In the 2000s I thought nothing to drive to the pub, consume 2 pints of lager and drive home. I’m only 5′ tall and drinking before eating; this could easily have taken me over the limit and the cause of accident or injury.
Then there’s the morning after, I put my hands up and admit I have been in charge of a vehicle on back roads and motorways when there is absolutely no way I should have been. Looking back, I was easily further over the limit than the 2 pints at my local. Now, what was your initial instinct – did you just judge me? Did you inwardly tut me or shake your head? This is a good thing. This is what we should do.
Going back to our star in the car. To add to the questions I have, he was not driving alone, it is reported his mother was in the passenger seat at the time. Did she knowingly sit in the car with a driver over the alcohol limit or did she also consider her son Ant to be more than capable of driving after a few drinks? So many unknowns.
What if this had been you. What would happen to your life if you lost your license? Can you complete your job if you do not drive? Imagine the sales manager who travels up and down motorways for a living with a 6-month ban – would employers be sympathetic? Who would take your kids to school?
Then what happens to your insurance after a crash you’ve caused? If you lost a game of chicken against a lamp-post or a tree then I’m guessing your premiums have doubled or more. Lastly the most morbid and extremes of all the consequences, how would you feel if you injured another person, dare I say it even killed someone?
If you think I’m being overdramatic, I just want you to think twice. Booze delays the messages from the eye to the brain, we process that information slower and then any reactions needed are also delayed. Whilst sitting at the control seat of a 3500 pound [1600 kg] metal can.
A rule of thumb is that it takes your body 1 hour to process 1 unit of alcohol and yet we drive home straight after drinking 1 or 2 drinks. One drink is not 1 unit of alcohol. Think of these unit values as hours. My 2 pints take over 4 hours to process through my body.
It was bad enough being a passenger in a vehicle doing doughnuts as my friend lost control of the rear of the car on a roundabout. It was heart-stopping to be in a car when the tire blew on a motorway, up the verge and heading straight for a solid road sign that could have scalped us. Neither incident involved other cars nor alcohol and both were scary enough thanks.
Ant was due to appear in court today, now adjourned. It will be interesting to see how they sentence. If Ant was over the limit he does need to feel the pain of consequence. A driving ban and huge monetary fine immediately come to mind. Though I really do hope he doesn’t get used as a pawn, no need to make an example of him to show Joe Public what extremes can apply when caught.
This is a first offence and it doesn’t excuse it but a small part of me does have a little empathy that he’s not thinking straight at the moment. Am I being too soft?
The penalties are listed in black and white online but appreciate the use of the words MAY and POSSIBLE:
Being in charge of a vehicle while above the legal limit or unfit through drink – YOU MAY GET: 3 months’ imprisonment / up to £2,500 fine / a possible driving ban
Driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit or unfit through drink – YOU MAY GET: 6 months’ imprisonment / an unlimited fine / a driving ban for at least 1 year (3 years if convicted twice in 10 years)
Causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink – YOU MAY GET: 14 years’ imprisonment / an unlimited fine / a ban from driving for at least 2 years / an extended driving test before your licence is returned
We have to agree we are no longer exempt from “tonight, this occasion will be fine”. Remember what damage we can do to others. In the case of Ant McPartlin, he was on suburban roads, I’m guessing travelling 40 miles per hour and ended up crashing into 2 other vehicles. The consumption of booze distorts your ability to drive even if you think you’re invincible.
Is it time to reduce the limits in the UK to zero acceptance? Do we need to uphold this and refuse to get into the car if we know the driver has consumed alcohol?
They say the risk of being knocked down by a car is higher than ever, what if that ‘one night’ you’re the pedestrian? Do you want this parking space?
Uber is just too easy, get a bus, ask a friend to pick you up, walk! Is it really that hard to arrange and leave the car keys at home? What do you think?
Have you got behind the wheel for that super short 5-minute journey you know like the back of your hand, even though you should have been nowhere near your car? What about our Ant McPartlin, what sentence should he receive?