The Times recently reported that, following the first rise in road injuries caused by drinking and driving in over 10 years, the Government is going on the offensive against those who drive over the limit. In support of this the Department of Transport has published figures demonstrating that, for the average person, the cost of conviction for a first-time offence is between £20,000 and £50,800. They do not quantify the personal and social cost to the individual and his/her family! The average drink driving ban for a first-time offender is 15 months; which equates to an average loss of earnings of £33,000 for the individual concerned. In addition, the increase in insurance over the 11 years that the conviction remains on an individual’s licence can cost as much as £8,000: plus a potential maximum fine of £5,000, and legal costs up to £4800 for a trial, all adds up to a staggering £50,800! Clearly these figures will vary wildly depending on an individual’s circumstances but nonetheless, they make for sobering reading.
Simon Best, the Institute of Advanced Motorists chief executive, believes that “£50,000 is an awful lot to pay for just one more drink. On top of the up-front financial costs, the long-term impact on earning can be serious if you factor in the stigma of a criminal record.”
Road Safety Minister Stephen Hammond said “It might only look like a humble pint of beer, but it could end up costing much more than a few quid. Anyone thinking of drinking and driving should be without any doubt: if you are caught driving over the limit, you will face a heavy court fine and lose your licence. You could even go to prison.” The police also have not been slow (despite the massive cuts to their budgets) to warn of a crackdown on those who drink and drive over the limit. Suzette Davenport, the Gloucestershire Chief Constable, told those who drink and drive: “it’s not a matter of if you get caught, it’s when.”
The latest year for which statistics are available show that the number of fatalities in drink driving impacts had shot up by an equally staggering 12% to 280: not that far away from one fatality a day! Overall casualties meanwhile had risen by 3% to 9,990 during the same period.
Quite why there should have been such an increase is not clear, and there is little point in speculation: however, what is clear is that each death and serious injury is a tragedy for the victim and his or her family! For the defendant, of course, there is not only the financial cost but also the moral shame associated with being branded a criminal! All this because of one more drink or perhaps more!