Under this headline in one of our free papers, our local Inspector Knacker says, "We appreciate that people may like to enjoy a drink on an evening, especially with the Euros [i.e. football] on, but if they are going to do that they shouldn't then get behind the wheel of a vehicle." I was expecting "if they think they may be over the limit" at the end of that sentence, but it wasn't there. The report also states that "In the last four years, June has seen ... 889 collisions where alcohol or drugs have been a contributory factor", which is clearly information supplied by the police. Hang on a moment there - drugs? I thought we were talking about people slipping over the limit during the enthusiasm of watching a match? I've never seen anyone shoot up, smoke dope or pop pills during a match in a pub. So now we've dragged in an illegal activity too, in the hope that the hostility many people have towards illegal drug use will rub off on alcohol: a form of guilt by association (it also handily bumps up the numbers too). Not only that, I'm suspicious of the phrase "contributory factor": obviously this means that some of the drivers had been drinking, but if so, how many were over the limit? Also, how many of these accidents were caused by the alcohol? It is possible to have a drink and be involved in an accident which was entirely someone else's fault. Do these stats take such factors into account; I really doubt it, and if I'm right, then they are seriously misleading, and I don't think that's an accident either.
I do not approve of driving when drunk (or for that matter under the influence of drugs, but that is beyond the remit I have set this blog), but you'll never see it written anywhere nowadays that drinking and driving is a perfectly legal activity. I rarely do it - usually when I am touring pubs to collect adverts for our local CAMRA magazine - but on the rare occasion I do, I take care to stay within the legal limit. I'm lucky in that I have more than 20 real ale pubs within half an hour's walk of where I live, but some people in more remote locations may have none within reasonable walking distance. Driving to the pub for a couple of slow pints over the course of an evening may the only way they can drink cask real ale (or any pub drink, for that matter), but if such people are made to feel that what they are doing, although completely lawful, is unacceptable, then that opportunity to socialise is removed. An evening of J20s or coffees is not a suitable replacement, as I know from my own recent medically-enforced abstinence. Rural pubs would suffer too, as a lot of their trade is from people in cars. Bus services are often inadequate or non-existent in evenings, and taxis can become prohibitive if used all the time, and certainly not worth the outlay if all you want is a couple of pints anyway.
The problems with drunken killers on the road are not caused by people who carefully make a couple of drinks last all night; they are caused by idiots who will drink copiously irrespective of the drink-drive limit: they'd still drive drunk even if it were zero. These are the people who need targeting, not a football fan who has taken it easy all evening while watching the match (I cover this in more detail here). No sign of any such awareness in Inspector Knacker's preaching to the public, but it would cost the police a lot more to tackle the real morons, who won't take the slightest bit of notice of the article in the paper. So, all in all, a bit of a wasted effort which will only discourage the sensible driver who keeps his drinking within the limit, and does nothing to deal with the real problem. Must do better, Knacker!
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