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Alcohol Misuse Among Minors (UK) Essay, Research Paper
Ellen Wichmann 5SK
Alcoholic drinks, in today?s society, have become an accepted part of social life. However, when alcohol is mixed with driving, catastrophic consequences can occur. In fact, 1 in 5 fatal accidents on our roads are directly related to alcohol. Is our government doing enough to deter people from drinking and driving?
Each week, around 11 people die from driving above the legal limit, just under half of whom being people other than the drink drivers themselves. A further 300 people are injured. An additional number of people are also killed or injured as a result of driving with a raised blood alcohol limit, but are still within the law.
The current legal limit is 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. According to the law, driving with this amount of alcohol can mean 12-18 months disqualification or up to 6 months imprisonment, one of the most lenient sentences in the European Union. This, in my opinion, is unacceptable.
In Europe, strict laws, high-impact anti-drink driving campaigns and extensive education on the effects of alcohol are the reason for the high standards of driving and the low alcohol related mortality rates. In my opinion, that is exactly the type of approach Britain should be taking to combat drink driving. More police power and more frequent breathalysing would target the ?high risk? offenders, who fall into the category of 19-24 year old males, while a higher amount and standard of drugs and alcohol education for 11-16 year olds would provoke future drivers to reconsider driving while intoxicated. The education which I received on alcohol and drug abuse was minimal and ineffective. There was little, if any, mention of drink driving.
The government, in fact, seems to be doing little to oppose the issue. I feel certain that a more thorough written paper as part of the driving exam to ensure people know the risks of alcohol when driving would be beneficial. I do acknowledge, however, that some politicians such as the former European Commissioner for Transport, Neil Kinnock, call for the limit to be reduced to 50mg/100ml. This is a common limit throughout Europe and is far more acceptable.
This limit is enforced in Holland, Finland, Austria, France and Germany, to name but a few, and significant reductions in deaths and serious injuries have been recorded. Holland, for example, which has had a 50mg limit for over 20 years, has a much lower rate of alcohol related road deaths the UK, 1 in 15 (7%) compared with 1 in 5 (20%). In 1995, Great Britain had 540 alcohol related road deaths while Holland had only 87.
This limit reduction to 50mg has also been enforced outside of the EU. In Australia, lowering the legal limit, combined with random breathalysing, showed a staggering 90% cut of people driving between 50mg and 80mg, and a 41% decrease in drivers over 150mg, thus many people remained unaffected by the consequences of drink driving, saving their government millions of dollars.
It is clear that Britain is in the minority of countries still with this outdated law of 80mg, along with Luxembourg and Denmark, both of which have a similarly high mortality rate.
The British government prides itself as being a highly organised, efficient and dedicated government, caring for us, the people. It is unclear to me exactly why this government continues to ignore this issue which takes an average of 570 lives every year.
The government had opted to introduce the lower limit in early 1998, but it was dismissed. A report substantiating their decision, on any other grounds apart from money issues, it seems, is unavailable. I fail to understand why money could be an issue, for any other reason other than the government?s mishandling of millions of pounds of tax payer?s money. Over ?208 million is spent on traffic accidents / damage related to alcohol; and around ?224 million on treatment for alcohol related injuries. Incorporating various other factors, such as costs of crimes, the total can be estimated at around ?3.7 billion per year. It is barely believable that our government could spend this amount of money so inefficiently. This money could easily be invested in preventative measures rather than the aftermath. In 1996, a mere ?1.2 million was spent on prevention campaigns and research. Logically these campaigns would be much more effective with even a tenth of ?3.7 billion. However, the government?s answer to this problem is to make our alcohol taxation rates some of the highest in the E.U.
The Alcohol and Driving Safety Act of 1967 founds the basis of our current penalties, updated in 1981 by the Transport Act and again in 1983 with the introduction of breathalysers. Since then, no further amendments have occurred. Adoption of the Act of 1967 is estimated to have saved 5000 lives and 200000 injuries between 1967 and 1974. However, its efficiency slowly decreased during the 1970?s. Mortality rates, which were 24% prior to the Act, fell to 15% during the first 10 years. In the 1974, on the other hand, this figure shot up to an unacceptable 34%, the highest ever recorded in Britain. A new law was needed then, but, unlike Holland, none materialised.
It is difficult to predict the number of lives that would be saved by a limit of 50mg, but given the evidence from other countries, it may well be between 200 and 300 lives. The figure may, however, be much higher. The beneficial effects of the introduction of the breathalyser in 1967 were greatly underestimated. Baroness Barbara Castle, the Minister responsible, hoped that up to 200 lives would be saved, in fact it was over 1000.
In my opinion, the current limit is too high and cannot be supported on scientific grounds. In 1959, Professor GC Drew tested drivers on a simulator with small amounts of alcohol. He found the relation between error and blood alcohol level to be a straight line, one directly proportional to the other. His report concluded that alcohol has ?no threshold, behaviour begins to deteriorate as soon as any alcohol enters the blood stream.?
A lower limit is far overdue and over 46,400,000 people (over 80% of the population) supported this in a survey carried out in May 1999. Indeed, many agree with this and over 4 in 10 would even support a zero limit. This, as far as I am concerned, would be by far the safest option, but by no means practical and is highly unlikely to ever pass. The disturbing truth is that the risk of having an accident doubles at 50mg and increases nine fold at 80 mg.
The fact remains that drink driving is a huge problem and it demands to be tackled.
No. of words: 1,127
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