Drink driving Christmas warning

8 December 2008

Get caught drink driving this Christmas and you not only face a criminal record, you could also see your car insurance premiums jump 82%.

Drivers are being warned to think before they indulge in a seasonal post work–tipple or a glass of mulled wine as this could easily put them over the limit. More than half a million people are stopped and breathalysed each year with more breath tests carried out in December than any other month, according to statistics from the Department for Transport.

“It is vital to make sure that you have adequate arrangements to get home as drink driving can have serious consequences, not only for yourself but also for other road users and pedestrians” warns Andy Leadbetter, head of insurance at moneysupermarket.com. “It is crucial to be aware of the effects of alcohol on driving; reaction times, co–ordination, and judgement will all be skewed.”

As well as the amount of alcohol you consume, your weight, gender, age, metabolism, stress levels and when you last ate, all effect your alcohol tolerance levels. So while you may feel OK to drive after one glass of wine, if you had soup for lunch then the wine has probably had more of an affect on you than you think, rendering the official limit of 80 mg of alcohol per 100 mg of blood, useless.

Jim Fitzpatrick, road safety minister, says there is only one solution - if you want a drink then don’t drive.

“Drink driving ruins lives," he adds. "Last year 460 people died and families across Britain were devastated by the menace of drink driving. My message to drivers is clear. If you get behind the wheel after a festive tipple you risk wrecking your own and other people’s lives – don’t do it.”

Fitzpatrick also points out that if you are stopped for drink driving then you will be treated the same as any other criminal: “Drink drivers face giving blood and DNA samples and being locked in a police cell.”

The minimum sentence for drink driving is a 12–month driving ban, a criminal record and a large fine of up to £5,000. Causing death by drink driving results in up to 14 years imprisonment, an unlimited fine, disqualification from driving and a mandatory extended driving test.

While some people would have no problem turning to public transport, for others who use their vehicles for work, a driving ban would be tantamount to losing a significant portion of their income.

Once the ban is lifted, you’ve paid your fine and you can drive again, you will still face increased costs, with insurance providers hesitant to take on convicted drink drivers.

“Even if you are over the limit by just a small amount, finding yourself uninsurable will be a huge blow. Even drinking under the legal limit and getting behind the wheel can be an accident waiting to happen,” says Leadbetter.

Faced with the struggle to find an insurer willing to take you on, even if you can find cover you will have to pay significantly more for it.

The average motor insurance cost is £290.54 for a five–year no claims discount with no criminal convictions. This goes up, on average, by £237.97 with the minimum DR10 penalty (driving or attempting to drive with alcohol level above limit).

However, this is only the average: the Post Office car insurance premims more than double from £280.21 pre–conviction to £570.13 afterwards.

Big names such as esure, Halifax and Sheilas’ Wheels won’t even return a quote on a motorist with a prior conviction.

And the likes of Zurich, LV=, the RAC and More Th>n won’t provide any cover if you have had a 12–month ban in the last five years.

So, rather than take a chance this Christmas, if you want a drink you're best making alternative arrangements, such as staying with friends, booking a taxi or getting a lift home.

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