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Opinion: When Did Drink Driving Become Socially Acceptable Again?

By Simon Donohue | January 22, 2015


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Younger drivers appear to be breaking alcohol laws more than older motorists

Opinion: When Did Drink Driving Become Socially Acceptable Again?
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For people of a certain age, drinking and driving remains a massive filthy taboo.

I believe that’s because they grew up in an era when anti-drink drive campaigns were both novel and hard hitting – deliberately aggressive messages designed to counter a change in attitudes as drink-drive laws were first introduced.

I’m in my early 40s and drinking and driving is something which most people of my generation simply don’t do and never did.

Of course, there are always exceptions, but generally speaking, drinking and driving has always been considered a “bad thing”. 

Our parents and grandparents might have done it – quite legally, as limits weren’t introduced until 1965 – but we don’t. 

Yet tragically, it appears that a new generation of younger drivers is emerging that doesn’t frown quite so heavily on drink-driving.

Under the influence

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has expressed concern for young drivers after a drink-driving campaign revealed they were proportionately more likely to drive while under the influence.

The December 2014 anti-drink-and-drug-driving campaign figures released by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) following its annual Christmas crackdown, show that of the 28,228 under-25s tested in December, 6.33 per cent (1,788) gave a positive breath test or refused or failed to give a test, compared to over-25s, where 3.94 per cent (4,042)failed during the campaign. A total of 102,555 breath tests were administered to over 25s.

Officers took a “more intelligence-led approach” while collecting the recent data, leading to a reduction in the number of tests administered. A total of 133,996 people were stopped and breath tested last year compared to 191,040 in 2013.

Despite this, there was an increase in the number of under-25s who tested positive, refused or failed to give a test, up from 1,675 in 2013 to 1,788 last year. Meanwhile, the number of over-25s who tested positive fell from 4,482 to 4,042.

The numbers are admittedly small. But this is still a worrying trend for us all, whether we are innocent motorists or pedestrians. So what’s gone wrong?

There was a similar story relating to a growing number of sexually transmitted diseases among younger people recently. One theory there was that a generation too young to have lived through the apocalyptic AIDS advertising campaigns of the 1980s wasn’t taking the precautions that their terrified parents did.


Now cast your mind back to when you saw a truly frightening commercial reminding you of the implications of drinking and driving. Nowadays, campaigning tends to focus on the implications for drivers in terms of losing their jobs, their homes and their relationships.

Maybe the emphasis should once again be placed on the potential for people to lose their lives, or kill somebody else? Maybe we need to properly scare people again?

Let's face it. There isn’t much that can’t be shown on TV today. The internet is awash with as much shocking information as anyone can stomach. Anti- drink-drive campaigns are going to have to hit much harder if they are going to register. Could it also be time for tougher laws and punishments, perhaps even a zero alcohol limit?

Drink drive laws have been a massive success - perhaps one of the most important safety improvements ever introduced. It would be a great tragedy if a new generation of drivers was to grow up thinking that it’s OK to ignore them.

What do you think? How should we tackle concerns about the growing number of younger people being caught drinking and driving?

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