The UK has been comparatively successful at tackling the scourge of driving while under the influence of alcohol by making the whole notion of going to the pub and driving home socially unacceptable. It is now such a fundamental part of our culture that servers expect there to be a designated driver when people are out for the evening, and it is widely expected that people will ensure they know how they are getting home before they go out in the first place (making driving or other transport arrangements in advance). It would appear we have it cracked.
Yet only this week a celebrity was charged with drunk driving and, far from being treated as a social pariah, was talked of sympathetically. Indeed, the context of the charge is incredibly serious – she was en route to collect her own children when she was seen driving erratically and failed a breathalyser test. The charge, therefore, concerns endangering other road users’ lives and even her own children by driving while under the influence. Why is this somehow acceptable?
It is deemed acceptable because the incident took place at 11.30am.
While drinking even two and a half glasses of wine and driving home at 11.30pm would make you a social pariah, the fact is we still absolutely accept it when someone gets completely sloshed well into the wee hours and then drives home a few hours later. Somehow, just because they slept briefly and it is daylight, we have decided to tolerate this form of drunk driving.
This smacks of an appalling complacency. There are more road users around on a weekend morning than late at night, so this form of drunk driving has the potential in fact to cause greater harm. So why, when someone is charged with it, is the perpetrator treated sympathetically?
There is no room for complacency. Drunk driving must be totally socially unacceptable, regardless of what time of day it takes place. This means we need to make plans for the following morning, not just the night before; and it means we need to call it what it is when it happens – a serious danger to other innocent road users.