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25,000 Dead and 130,000 Injured Since First Anti Drink-Drive Advert in the UK

The UK Government’s first ever ‘public information film’ on the dangers of drink driving was broadcast 50 years ago in 1964. A product of its time, the jaunty animation-style ad features an imagined office party with a voiceover warning of the potential dangers of a car accident after four to six whiskies!

Since 1964, more than 25,000 people in the UK have been tragically killed by drink-drivers with at least 130,000 seriously injured. Unfortunately, as horrific as these statistics are, the recording of drink driving casualties only began in 1979, meaning the true numbers of dead and injured since the first anti-drink driving advert was aired are likely to be considerably higher.

Thankfully, drink driving casualties have fallen significantly from 1,640 deaths and 8,300 serious injuries in 1979, to 230 dead and 1,200 seriously injured in 2012. This is partly due to public education campaigns such as those by the Department for Transport’s road safety agency, Think!, which have prevented an estimated 2,000 deaths and more than 10,000 serious injuries between 1979-2009.

Despite the fall in casualty figures since 1964 however, drink driving sadly remains one of the biggest killers on our roads, accounting for one in eight road deaths caused by drink-drivers over the current legal limit of 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

Since the first anti-drink driving advert, we have seen the message about how much is too much change dramatically. While the 1964 advert warns of the risks of drinking four to six whiskies; in the late 80s and early 90s young men often understood the risks but still believed drink driving was socially acceptable. During the 90s although people condemned the eight pints drunk-driver, many were still happily getting behind the wheel after a couple. From 2000 onwards, the generally accepted rule of thumb was one pint good, three pints bad, with advertisers targeting the potentially tragic consequences of a second and third pint.

Now, Brake, the road safety charity, is using the 50 year anniversary since the first anti-drink driving advert to highlight the on-going menace of drink driving and call for a zero-tolerance drink-drive limit of 20mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. Brake’s Not a drop, not a drag campaign urges all political parties to make this a key manifesto commitment for the 2015 general election.

Senior Slater and Gordon Lawyer Matthew Claxson said, “Anti-drink driving advertising plays an incredibly important role in reducing road deaths and injuries and it is essential the UK Government continues to fund these campaigns.

“When records began in the 70s, 28 people were killed or seriously injured on the roads every single day in drink driving accidents. This has now fallen to around four a day, a testament to the ability of communications to influence public attitudes and behaviour.

“Even though drink driving remains socially unacceptable, too many Brits continue to get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol,” said Matthew. “Clearly this can result in fatal accidents not to mention horrendous suffering for those who are left bereaved or injured.”

According to Brake, drivers with even 20-50mg alcohol per 100ml of blood are at least three times more likely to die in a car accident than those with no alcohol in their blood. This is because even small amounts of alcohol can affect drivers' reaction times, hazard perception and co-ordination. Alcohol also creates a false sense of confidence, making it impossible for drivers to assess their own impairment and more inclined to take risks and believe they are in control of their vehicles.

 “This is why we need a zero-tolerance drink-drive limit with tougher penalties for those who flout the law; to send a clear message that the only truly safe limit is to abstain entirely,” said Matthew. “Too many drivers think they’re safe to drive as they’ve only had one or two pints. Although legally they may indeed be safe to drive, they still present a significant risk to themselves and others.”

Brake advises that the only way to ensure drivers are safe is to not drink any alcohol at all before driving, and never drive the morning after having more than one or two drinks. In addition, passengers should only accept a lift with a driver who hasn’t been drinking at all.

The drink-drive limit of 20mg alcohol per 100ml of blood that Brake is calling for is a limit set by numerous other countries including Sweden, Poland and Greece. The EU recommends a limit of no more than 50mg, and within the EU only Malta shares the UK's limit of 80mg. Governments in Scotland and Northern Ireland have announced intentions to reduce their limits to 50mg, and in Northern Ireland, newly qualified drivers and commercial drivers will have a zero tolerance limit of 20mg.

Whether you have suffered a simple bruising, whiplash or a more serious road traffic accident injury, Slater and Gordon Lawyers can help. Call us for a free consultation on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we’ll be happy to help you. Our UK contact centre is open 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

Our Road Traffic Accident Solicitors deal with all types of road accident injury claims for car, van, lorry and bus drivers, passengers, people injured on public transport, cyclists, motorcyclists, pedestrians, claims against the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) and road traffic accidents overseas.

Slater and Gordon are a national law firm with 1,450 staff and offices in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Derby, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Milton Keynes, Merseyside, Bristol, Newcastle, Halifax, Wakefield, Cambridge & meeting rooms in Bramhall, Cheshire & in Hull.