Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A day to bury good news

(N.B. I am not the Devil's Kitchen)

As part of the escalating war on drinkers, various pressure groups are keen for the government to reduce the legal blood-alcohol limit to practically zero. This is gesture politics and nothing more. There is no evidence that driving ability is impaired at the current 80mpg limit and the unspeakable twats who maim and kill through drink-driving are invariably plastered. No one knows that better than coroners, like this chap:
"Of those fatal accidents where alcohol is implicated, it has been on very rare occasions, and I have been doing this job for 17 years, that I have come across inquests where people have been killed with a blood alcohol level of between 50 and 80mgs. Normally, the blood alcohol level involved in these deaths is between 150 and 350 mgs"

A sane policy would, therefore, be to get the police to enforce the law as it already stands. That, however, would involve tackling a hardcore of morons and alcoholics, would be expensive and would involve a little bit of effort. And since the task of policing the roads has long since been handed over to little yellow machines, there is fuck all chance of it happening. So, let's go after people having a shandy with their Sunday roast, eh?

Drink-driving statistics were announced last week and campaigners would have loved it if the number of fatalities had gone up, because then, of course, "something would have to be done". Alas, for them, drink-driving fatalities dropped sharply—by 18%—but since the whole war on booze is being fought at a time when alcohol consumption is falling, they were hardly going to let the fact that drink-driving is rare and getting rarer get in the way.

In fact, you probably didn't hear about that statistic at all because it was completely overshadowed by a small survey conducted by the insurance company Green Flag, and promoted by a group called Brake. Consequently, a dramatic fall in drink-driving deaths was reported under headlines like 'Call for cut in drink-drive limit', '40% women take wheel after drinks' and 'New plea for drink-drive crackdown'.

According to Sky News:
"As many as 42% of female motorists admitted getting behind the wheel while over the legal limit."

Or, as The Mirror put it:
"Soaring numbers of women get behind the wheel of a car after boozing, according to a study yesterday. Over 40 per cent of women motorists admit to drinking and driving."

Nearly half of women motorists are driving around pissed?! No wonder the news about drink-driving fatalities going down got short shrift.

But it was all bollocks. If you delve deep into Brake's website, you can find the actual results of its survey:
"Respondents were asked 'Within the past 12 months, have you drunk alcohol before driving, and if so, how much?' 2,406 male and 2109 female drivers were questioned.

41% of male drivers said they had not drunk alcohol before driving, compared to 58% of female drivers

17% of male drivers said they have driven after a maximum of one small glass of wine, or equivalent, compared to 28% of female drivers

25% of male drivers said they have driven after a maximum of two small glasses of wine or equivalent, compared to 11% of female drivers

8% of male drivers said they have driven after a maximum of three small glasses of wine or equivalent, compared to 2% of female drivers

9% of male drivers said they have driven after four or more small glasses of wine or equivalent, compared to 1% of female drivers"

And the penny drops. We are talking about drivers who have drunk any quantity of alcohol in the last year. And as the results make clear, the vast majority of drivers had not broken the law, or come close to doing so. 2% of women had slightly exceded the legal limit, and only 1% had driven while being anything like pissed. Shame on them, of course, but this is hardly evidence of a "soaring" number of women driving around "after boozing". 3% of the total admitted to driving while over the limit, not 42%—not quite the crisis that you may have been led to believe.

So what was that Sky headline again?
"As many as 42% of female motorists admitted getting behind the
wheel while over the legal limit."

Create a problem. Promote some illiberal bullshit. Get your policy through. Above all, fuck the facts. Fiddling the drink-driving figures is hardly the Reichstag fire but it's a fairly typical example of how these people operate. And this is what they want, according to their "head of campaigns":
"The most successful campaign would be one that had a clear message that no amount of alcohol is acceptable—any amount affects your reaction times and judgment. For such a campaign to work, the Government needs to reduce the drink-drive limit, which is currently crazily high. This is a battle for a lower limit and a simpler communication message. No alcohol is the only possible safe amount when driving."

Utter horse-shit. The current limit is very simple. You can have one standard drink, whatever you size or gender, and that's it. That would not be the case if the limit was 50mpg or 20mpg. The limit in the UK is not "crazily high" by any stretch of the imagination and there is absolutely no evidence that reducing it would save a single life. The problem of drunk-driving is caused by people who are fucking drunk, not by people who have had one drink. Come up with some evidence to contrary and we'll talk. Until then, who the fuck are you to tell me what's "acceptable"?

Then there is the plea for solidarity with our European neighbours:
"The UK limit is higher than a number of other EU countries, with Poland, Sweden and Norway setting their limit at 20mpg."

Well, fucking bully for them. This country—thank Christ almighty—is not Sweden, Norway or Poland. We'll have a stab at making our own laws if it's all the same to you.

Let's get this straight. For people who have to drive to work, a 20mpg limit will effectively criminalise having a few drinks in the evening. Some medicines would make you a 'drink-driver'. That's how low the limit would be. We are talking about trace quantities here. The Swedish police might not feel inclined to set up road-blocks at eight in the morning but you can be damn sure the twats in this country won't think twice.

But since you want to cite a minority of European nations as a template: the USA, Canada, Brazil, New Zealand and numerous other countries have a limit of 80mpg or higher, so what exactly is your fucking point? And a quick check of the figures shows that Norway has a higher rate of drink-driving fatalities than Britain. And would you care to guess who has the highest rate of drink-driving fatalities in the whole of Europe? That's right—good old Sweden. For the record, Luxembourg has the lowest rate of fatalities and they have the same blood-alcohol limit as us. So, really, the whole theory that bringing the limit down is going to make any difference whatsoever is a bit of cock-suck, isn't it?

So what have we got? Good news downplayed. Bad news made up. Lazy hacks who can't even read a press release properly. An insurance company gets a bit of cheap publicity. Before you know it, they'll be another pointless law which will make a lot of people's lives just a little bit more miserable. This is how activism works.

There's an air of inevitability about the government bowing to pressure from these pricks. The usual interfering, puritantical bastards at Alcohol Concern and the British Medical Association are, of course, right behind the campaign. The BMA don't want us to have more than one drink a day whether we drive or not, for fuck's sake. That androgynous, bible-bashing cretin Ruth Kelly is now in charge of the department of transport, and she is exactly the kind of pointless New Labour bitch who would leap at the chance to enact some "tough" legislation. And no doubt our glorious boys in blue will be only too happy to be handed another excuse to get up to their favourite past-time of hassling motorists. (So much easier than solving the murder of a certain television personality.) The main losers will be pubs and country folk, but the government has been systematically butt-fucking both of them for years so why stop now?

No, they'll get their ban, don't you worry, and they'll do anything to get it.


TheFatBigot said...

Nicely put Mr Smoker.

This is yet another of those fields in which a lack of proportion seems to be applauded because it grabs a mindless headline.

As always the relevant question is what harm it does to have a blood alcohol level of, say, 50 or 70 rather than 81. But that will be of no concern to the single issue fanatics.

Boy on a bike said...

Drunken Swedish drivers are very considerate though.

I was getting plastered up there years ago when I saw a car, obviously driven by a drunk, pull over to the side of the road. It was weaving this way and that, stopping and starting in a jerky kind of way.

The door opened, the driver leaned out and he chundered about 1 litre of vodka out the door.

The thing is though, he had been weaving down the road looking for a drain to chuck into.

Like I said, they're very polite and considerate.

Trixy said...

"We'll have a stab at making our own laws if it's all the same to you."

Well, it's not. The EU want to harmonise drink driving laws. And smoking, you filthy firebreather.

I think those awful headlines need reporting.

wonkotsane said...

Unusually for this blog, I disagree.

It is quite possible for someone's ability to drive safely to be impaired after 2 pints, just as it is possible for someone's ability to drive safely be largely unaffected after drinking 4 pints.

The problem lies with an arbitrary limit which doesn't take into account personal circumstances. A hardened alcoholic could be way over the legal limit and be more fit to drive than the occasional drinker who has only had a couple of pints.

I'm 6'1" and fat and in the past I used to drink probably 25-30 pints a week. My body's ability to cope with alcohol is good. I hardly ever drink now but I can generally drink a fair drop and be relatively sober - my wife has never seen me drunk in over 7 years, even when we've been out drinking. However, there have been times when I've had one pint and felt like I've drunk 4 or 5 pints.

The police in the US have the right idea - physically test the drivers reactions and co-ordination at the roadside. If they've drunk a lot but they're still capable then give them a warning and send them on their way - they're no more dangerous than an old bloke in his matchbox car driving everywhere at 40mph, regardless of the speed limit.

JuliaM said...

Before they get their knickers in a twist over people who might have had a sweet sherry three nights before getting in a car, could they maybe do something about the vast numbers of people who are obviously unable to drive at all?

Like the ones who don't indicate/indicate the wrong way/leave the indicator on regardless/use their mobile phone/pull out into a 40mph dual carriageway and forget which gear is which/block zebra crossings in traffic, etc...?

I'm pretty sure the vast majority of them are stone cold sober, too. Perhaps they'd drive better if they had a drink?

Anonymous said...

As Trixie says our real government is behind this. Our local government has no option but to harmonise our drink - driving laws with the rest of the EU.

Anonymous said...

Well, this is just a reminder that (alcohol) prohibition has always been one of the primary obsessions of the progressive movement since they're moral reformers. After the mess in the USA with outright prohibition they had to lay a bit low and take a gradualist approach, and really had to get a win with that approach with tobacco before pushing ahead with their other obsessions; alcohol, "refined" foods and so on.

These are people who want to turn the whole world into a giant version of Port Sunlight, remember. They're incredibly scary, dangerous people. And they've won. Dark times ahead.

Anonymous said...

On the issue of drink driving I'm pretty sure it's been proven that the first half pint or so actually improves your abilities.

What concerns me more though is the single issue politics. These people have little or no interest in solving the problems they claim to care about so much because, of course, if the problem goes away then so does their reason for exisitng. if they do ever acheive anything they then set another target claiming the first one didn't go far enough. We can't possibly satisfy these people's need to interfere in the world so we might as well tell them to fuck right off back to Stalinist Russia or wherever the fuck they came from and see how the cunts cope when they are all thrown in a gulag for being a bunch of mentally deficient cocksuckers.

Anonymous said...

It's all very well saying that Poland will be reducing the alcohol limit even further, but my experience of Polish (and other east European drivers) in Edinburgh suggests that they'll do the same as before and completely ignore it.

The Filthy Smoker said...

Winston said "if the problem goes away then so does their reason for exisitng. if they do ever acheive anything they then set another target claiming the first one didn't go far enough."

Exactly. Look at Mothers Against Drink Driving in the US. They did a lot of good work when they started up in the '80s but before long they were campaiging (successfully) for the drinking age to be raised to 21 and now endorse a range of anti-drink policies that have nothing to do with drink driving. So much so that its founder Candy Lightner quit, saying: "It has become far more neo-prohibitionist than I had ever wanted or envisioned...I didn’t start MADD to deal with alcohol. I started MADD to deal with the issue of drunk driving."

Things haven't reached that level here yet but if you pop on over to the Campaign Against Drink Driving http://www.cadd.org.uk/ you will immediately be asked to lend your support to banning alcohol adverts on TV.

Anonymous said...

Oh God preserve us, another lengthy whine from the "I wanna drink" brigade.

That's right, I'm fuckin' articulate and I can't live without booze so why stop me driving, yer bastards.

Discuss this at the pub: while there are people who cannot drive when sober there are even more who cannot drive when they have sniffed the barmaid's apron and lost control of their bodily functions, but that doesn't stop them trying.

Pointing out that this MADD organisation isn't currently what it set out to be, or getting upset about poor reporting and flawed surveys or even rifling through Luxembourg's road fatality figures doesn't alter the fact that booze and driving isn't a good idea. Full stop.

As for "On the issue of drink driving I'm pretty sure it's been proven that the first half pint or so actually improves your abilities" Oh well, wouldn't it be nice if these drinkers stopped there? Oh wait, they don't. So to paraphrase the point: "On the issue of drink driving I'm pretty sure it's been proven that the first half pint or so actually is followed by a whole bellyful more."

Sorry guys: this will stir up a shit-storm and a lot of readers will need a stiff drink to clam down after this, but really... while DK is a great blog it's ongoing obsession with having a pint or two is tedious.

I can hear the screams now, accusations of being against liberty, wanting a police state. But how come liberty equals irresponsible behaviour when people want to get pissed and drive?

No, don't bother answering.

Anonymous said...

"...doesn't alter the fact that booze and driving isn't a good idea."

Funny. I've just re-read the post and all the comments, and I can't find anyone actually saying that (other than a few obviously jocular throwaway comments).

But don't mind us, you carry on with your pointless rant against a strawman...

Anonymous said...

No, don't bother answering

It's no bother.

Wewent through all this with smoking, didn't we? Smokers asked for smoking and non-smoking bars, at the owner's discretion but noooo, ban it all. Everywhere. At bus stops. On open railway platforms.

This is much the same. Anonymous (aren't they always, those Righteous?) seeks to make it appear that the article calls for compulsory vodka drips in every car on the road.

The issue is this: If this goes ahead, you can be prosecuted for driving home from a meal out where you had one (count them: one) glass of wine with your meal. If you're on cough medicines you can be prosecuted because your blood alocohol will not be zero. Gripe water will get you a prison sentence.

You can be prosecuted if you had a whisky before bedtime the night before.

The article is NOT saying we should all go down the boozer, sink 16 pints and drive home, and the Righteous Anon would have us believe. It is sayong that we have laws against drink driving, the limits are sensible, and those who ignore them are actually a menace - although according to those figures, a declining menace.

As with all laws, no matter what the limit is, those who ignore the ones we have now will ignore the new ones too. It will make no difference to drink-driving at all.

All it will do, as with every other law these unsalted slugs pass, is make it easier to meet police targets by criminalising those who are doing no harm.

Righteous Anon, I'd be interested in your thoughts, if you have any.

Anonymous said...

"No, don't bother answering".

Then don't bother posting. Cunt.

The Filthy Smoker said...

Never mind the slippery slope. The fact of the matter is that this law, here and now, will not make any fucking difference. All it will do divert the police's attention from those who genuinely pose a threat. Tackling drink driving by clamping down on trace quantities of alcohol in the blood is like tackling knife-crime by banning cutlery.

Devil's Kitchen said...

"I can hear the screams now, accusations of being against liberty, wanting a police state. But how come liberty equals irresponsible behaviour when people want to get pissed and drive?"

Let's look at this another way...

We punish those who drink and drive because they have a higher chance of hurting someone in an accident. That is the only justification for this law -- agreed?

Now, by the same justification, I have decided that I am going to lock up black people and poor people.

Why? Because, statistically, black people and poor people have a higher chance of being criminals and thus of hurting others.

Would you care to comment, Anon?


P.S. There are those libertarians who maintain that there is no justification for the drink-drive laws; I am not entirely convinced, mainly because -- although I instinctively disagree with criminalising people for something that they might do -- cars are dangerous and people are stupid.

Anonymous said...

How many of us have driven when tired? Its just as dangerous as doing so after a few pints, but there is no test for it.

This crap is just the usual "lets pick on the innocent" rather than bother with those who are really a threat to society. Its so much easier.

Anonymous said...

If I could be so bold DK as to point out that cars like firearms are perfectly safe until put into the hands of idiots, having said that I do agree with what you say.

It is a very small minority that drink drive and yes they should be caught and punished. it is unfortuante that the majority of motorists are badgered because of it.

As a smoker I have a great degree of sympathy for them as I know too well how the minority make life hard for the majority.

Drinkers are now starting down the same road as smokers, make no mistake drivers will follow them, it is time to say to our elected representitives enough is enough we are not going to tolerate our employees micromanaging our lives for us! That is what politicians are OUR EMPLOYEES.

Dr Evil said...

If nmore EU countries have 80mg as the limit that means Poland, Sweden et al will have to up their limits.

Brake, being a pressure group has no truck with words like truth, accuracy, etc. Cars have been getting safer for years. Omly a hard core of idiot motorists drink and drive and as you say, none are 81mg. They are more likely twice or thrice over this limit.

As for the BMA.........units are an arbitrary measue being 5gms of alcohol. in the US, a unit is twice the size. Just shows what a load of old bollocks this is. It certainly is not based on science.

Anonymous said...

We now have "passive drinking" in order to generalise the problem and spur on Government action.


Roger Thornhill said...

"How many of us have driven when tired? "

How about driving while trying to deal with two sprogs who are having various forms of tantrum?

The amount if times I see a car where the driver is looking back or even reaching back to kids in the back, and the lack of control and due care that results.

The school run is as scary as 11:15pm, IMHO.

Anonymous said...

If I get a chance I shall see if I can find a link to an excellent post at "the law west of Ealing Broadway" - the magistrate's blog.

He remarked on this precise topic.
Headline: France's blood alcohol limit is much lower than ours.

Actual, rather trickier truth: yes, but test between x and 80mg and you ONLY GET A WARNING.

It is only at a HIGHER level than ours that the French get nasty and start banning.

Anonymous said...

And how many drive under the influence of drugs such as valium?

NHS Fail Wail

I think that we can all agree that the UK's response to coronavirus has been somewhat lacking. In fact, many people asserted that our de...