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Drink Driving – What Are The Risks?

Nov 6, 2020

Sadly, despite years of awareness campaigning about drink driving risks, drivers still get behind the wheel whilst under the influence of alcohol. In fact this recent Fleet News articles looks at figures suggesting drink driving is increasing with serious casualties and fatalities from drink drive accidents reaching their highest level since 2010.

The COVID-19 pandemic also seems to be having an impact on alcohol consumption, particularly in the home, creating a knock on impact on drink driving risk which can spill over into the working environment.

What are the current drink driving risks and issues?

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted all of our lives. And figures suggest that there has been an increase in home drinking, particularly during the lockdown period. Another period of which we are about to start.

More time spent in the home as working from home remains common place, coupled with the stresses caused by the pandemic could be a driving force behind this. And people are increasingly without the structure and norms which the work environment creates.

And it would appear that driving the next day after a large number of drinks is causing many people to be caught over the limit. In 2018, 28% of drink driving arrests were the ‘morning after’. People may not realise the extent to which alcohol stays in the body.

Pubs, in a bid to support their businesses by diversifying during the pandemic, have in recent months started offering the ability for those currently working from home to work from the pub instead, offering lunchtime deals and free wi-fi. Which again raises the concern of daytime drinking before needing to drive home.

This is where corporate responsibility really becomes important. Is your business taking due care and providing adequate support to employees who may be under multiple stresses during the pandemic? If your professional drivers are continuing to work are you testing for alcohol and drugs – something which Brake amongst other campaigners are encouraging fleet operators to implement.

Why it is important to have a drink driving policy in place

It is important to put a separate drink driving policy in place. One that stands alone from other policies given the severity of the outcomes drink driving can have. And a policy that  reflects the current situation that we find ourselves in with the COVID-19 pandemic and related impact on individuals.

When creating your drink driving policy it is important to recognise the nuances of drink driving limits. Everyone handles alcohol differently – it is not as straightforward as simply stating the number of drinks it is safe to have before driving.

Remember, drivers can be over the limit but not impaired and under the limit but impaired. Both situations are illegal. As a result, when it comes to driving for work, taking a zero-tolerance policy to alcohol should be encouraged.

What should be included in your drink driving policy?

  • Educate employees on the legislation regarding drink driving and the penalties and consequences
  • Give consideration to the practice of randomly testing employees for alcohol levels as well pre-employment testing. Figures show 61% of employers do not test employees who drive for work
  • Include education on the dangers of driving the morning after drinking
  • Involve structured training for staff. Both managers and drivers
  • Allow you to record how you have trained and implemented your policy
  • Be reviewed annually and updated where necessary e.g. if new legislation comes into force

The COVID-19 pandemic and impact on alcohol consumption and related drink driving risks highlights the importance of updating your policies and procedures and to regularly train your drivers on your policies.

It also highlights the importance you must place on your duty of care. Formal training is vital, but so is the ability to create a safe environment for your employees. Your working environment should allow employees to make safe decisions and encourage self-reporting. You should provide support networks where possible so that if an employee does have any concerns about issues such as alcohol they can be discussed, and steps taken to mitigate risks and ensure the safety of employees.

What are the personal consequences of drug driving?

There are a range of penalties that can be given to individuals for drink driving, depending on the exact nature of the offence. The actual penalty given is decided by the magistrate that hears your case.

Being in charge of a vehicle while above the legal limit or unfit through drink

 You may be given

  • 3 months imprisonment
  • up to £2,500 fine
  • A possible driving ban

Driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit or unfit through drink

You may get:

  • 6 months’ imprisonment
  • an unlimited fine
  • a driving ban for at least 1 year (3 years if convicted twice in 10 years)

Refusing to provide a specimen of breath, blood or urine for analysis

You may get:

  • 6 months’ imprisonment
  • an unlimited fine
  • a ban from driving for at least 1 year

Causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink

You may get:

  • 14 years’ imprisonment
  • an unlimited fine
  • a ban from driving for at least 2 years
  • an extended driving test before your licence is returned

Fleet managers and individuals should also be aware that sentencing guidelines are currently being reviewedwith proposed changes set to introduce life sentences for those who cause death by dangerous driving, and for careless drivers who kill while under the influence of drink or drugs. An increase from the current maximum of 14 years.

What are the corporate consequences of a driver being caught drink driving?

As a business there are wide ranging consequences which you or a responsible individual can face if someone that you employ is caught drink driving. Particularly if the offence results in injury or fatality. And if you are not able to demonstrate adequate risk management policies and procedures.

In some of the most serious cases, responsible directors can face imprisonment, your business could be issued with unlimited fines or individuals can be prosecuted for gross negligence manslaughter or corporate manslaughter.

And in such instances your business is likely to incur other consequences:

  • Damage to your brand reputation
  • Potential business closure
  • An impact on your ability to obtain insurance.

At Anthony Jones we work in association with DAC Beachcroft and are able to help you to understand how to draft and implement a Driving Policy for your business. We work with you to help improve your risk profile and put risk management measures in place because we believe that an insurance broker should do more for your business than arrange your insurance. Talk to us today to see how we can help your business.


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