People are being urged to be the designated driver on nights out this Christmas in a bid to reduce the number of drink and drug driving incidents.
As we head into the busiest time of the year for parties and impromptu drinks, campaign group Road Safety GB North East (RSGB NE) has joined forces with the police and fire services to encourage people to give the ‘gift of a lift’ to friends and family out drinking.
Drivers are also encouraged to watch out for pedestrians, particularly around pubs and clubs, as young people who are under the influence of drink and drugs are the most high-risk group when it comes to pedestrian road casualties.
Despite overall drink and drug driving casualties falling by 17% in the five years between 2014 and 2018, the number of fatalities and people seriously injured has not followed suit.
In 2014, 56 people were killed or seriously injured, and in 2018 the number was 71. In 2015, those figures peaked at 81.
Paul Watson, chairman of RSGB NE, said people should go out and have a great time, but he encouraged them to plan their transport beforehand.
“At Christmas, people are very good at planning where to go, who they should go with, and what they will wear, but often they give very little thought to how they are going to get home afterwards,” said Paul.
“We are urging people to arrange a taxi beforehand, sort a lift, or better still, be the designated driver and stay sober.
“By sticking to soft drinks and offering to drive, you will be giving your friends and family a great gift this Christmas.
“And remember, look out for each other. A good friend would never let their mate get behind the wheel of a car while under the influence. Be a good mate this Christmas.”
Cleveland and Durham Road Policing Unit reminded people they could still be over the drink and drug drive limit the morning after a heavy session of partying.
It takes roughly one hour for one unit of alcohol to leave the body – with many drinks accounting for two or three units, such as beer and wine.
Temporary Strategic Roads Policing Inspector Darren Breslin said: “We want to appeal to drivers not to take the risk this Christmas and New Year.
“Drivers also need to be aware of the increased detection rate of drug driving; there has been a year on year increase in positive drug swipes throughout the country.
“Cleveland and Durham officers continue to take a positive approach to any person found drug driving, the risks involved with drug driving are no different from those who choose to drink and drive.”
Steve Johnson, Area Manager Prevention, at Cleveland Fire Brigade, said: “Planning ahead for your journey is essential, don’t run the risk of being the next person we need to rescue from a road traffic collision. Make sure your vehicle is winter ready and that you’re alert and in an appropriate condition to drive.
“Cleveland Fire Brigade would like to wish everyone a happy and safe festive season.”
In the five years between 2014 and 2018, 1,537 people were injured or killed in collisions on North East roads that involved alcohol or drugs.
Statistics show that men are much more likely to be involved in a drink/drug drive collision, than women, and the most at-risk group are those aged between 17 and 34.
Drivers involved in collisions whilst impaired are also likely to be fairly close to home when they occur.
Paul added: “No one goes out with the intention of causing a collision, but it could easily happen if you are under the influence. Even if you don’t crash your car, you could be stopped by police, resulting in arrest, fines and possibly losing your licence. It’s not worth it.”