Saturday, 5 June 2010

Drinky-drivy. Naughty naughty.

When I was a hideous little child with no manners and not the dook of an idea how to comport myself in public, O my brothers, drinking and driving was naughty but not evil. Crashing into other people was evil no matter what you had in your bloodstream. Managing to get home plastered but undented and with no pedestrian hood ornament was, even so, frowned upon but not actually subject to a mandatory pummelling from the law. Now, it is.

I no longer have a car. I've had several, all battered bangers - and never drove drunk because I knew I was unsafe to drive under the influence. Incidentally, one of my big regrets in life is that my father once had a Ford Cortina Estate Mk II 1600E (Yes, E. Someone out there knows what that means) and he sold it long before I was old enough to drive. It was a beaut, and if I had it now I might even let it out of the garage once in a while. I've seen a MkII Cortina recently, and a Hillman Imp, and even an Austin Seven, all in top condition and they made me wish I'd kept my wedge-shaped Princess and looked after it. It would be too old to pay tax by now (do they still exempt old cars?) and it was repairable without recourse to computers.

Driving while not in proper control of the vehicle is dangerous. Operating any such machinery, cranes, diggers, tractors, etc. while not being properly able to control it is dangerous. That is unchallengeable. This week I was on a bus with a driver who I swear was either a) desperate for a pee, b) desperate for a smoke or c) practicing for the bobsled at the next winter Olympics. I was early at my destination which didn't really help because the bloke I was to meet was still in a meeting. I was, however, glad of the colon-settling properties of The Stuff. She (the driver) was in complete control at all times. Too well in control for those of a nervous disposition, but we were never in any danger. It was as safe as a fairground ride. I don't like those either.

If that driver had been under the influence of any form of reaction-slowing substance, I might have missed Smoky-Drinky and be typing this on my little Linux almost-palmtop from a hospital bed, using my remaining fingers and washing between every keystroke while trying not to inhale. She was not, fortunately.

Nowadays we have an arbitrary number, a one-size-fits-all limit on how much you can drink and still be in control of a vehicle. It is wrong. Not the number, the approach. In law, more than two beers (approximately) and you are subject to the same penalties as someone who has downed a bottle of whisky in one go.

I would not drive after two beers. I could be coherent after a bottle of whisky, but not in one go. However, I would not feel fully in control of the vehicle after two beers. When I had to drive home from somewhere, I drank no alcohol. My personal drink-drive limit is zero. So, why am I not joining the ranks of programmed drones in calling for zero? After all, I don't drive and when I did, I never drank, so why aren't I leading their charge?

It's because their charge is stupid.

The reason I don't drive has little to do with booze. I like drinking, yes, I don't like driving and I don't believe the two things are a good mix for me personally, so obviously I'll ditch the one I don't like. That was just a small part of it. I am not permanently drunk so could make use of a car. I don't like paying tax when I buy the car, I don't like paying duty and VAT on petrol (a tax on the tax), I don't like paying tax on insurance which goes up when someone else crashes, then road tax, MOT plus tax, repairs plus tax, tax tax tax. Tax on every aspect of the driving experience means that it is cheaper for me to use public transport. I only have to pay for it when I use it and when I get where I'm going, I don't have to park it. I am not 'lucky to live where public transport goes where I need to go'. That was by design. I sought a place to live where public transport worked how I wanted it to work. No luck involved.

Plus, if I have a ticket, I have a receipt that can be attributed to business use. I could never prove which parts of car use were business and which were not.

I am happy to pay the petrol costs when friends give me lifts, and I never disparage their choice to own cars. It's their choice. It's different to my choice but that is the nature of choice, and of personal circumstances. They are not the same for everyone.

Just like drinking. I could write a novel while continuously plastered. Others would have trouble finding the keyboard. I would not feel safe driving with any alcohol in me. Others are affected to different extents. Some could be over the 'limit' and safe. Others could be under the 'limit' and deadly. Some should not be driving even if they haven't so much as smelled a beer but that's a different rant.

'In control of the vehicle/machinery' is the critical aspect here. You might be stone cold sober but driving a Porsche Boxster when you've spent your driving career in Fiat Unos. Are you in control? It's perfectly legal. Nobody will raise the slightest objection. As long as you're sober and within the speed limit you can plough into a primary school playground and that's just an accident. Under the law, it's not what you do that counts. It's what condition you were in when you did it. Lose control of a performance car and as long as you're sober, you'll have no trouble.

This Labour idea of cutting the drink-drive limit in half, likely to be embraced by the Illiberal Torycrats aka New New Labour, will do nothing at all to improve road safety. It is not intended to.

Look at the bans so far. Drugs are illegal. Are there no more drugs? Handguns are illegal. Are there no more shootings with handguns? Carrying a knife is illegal. Are there no more stabbings? Why are these things not enforced harder?

Smoking in a public place is illegal and enforced as if it we were building atom bombs in the back rooms of pubs.

It is not complicated. Those who cause accidents while over the 'limit' are not slightly over. They are double, treble, four times over. They are completely gassed. They ignore the limit.

The criminals with guns had them illegally anyway. They did not hand them in. They bought more. Those who set out to stab someone, ignored the law saying they shouldn't carry knives. It was already illegal to stab or shoot someone, you know. So what changed?

All that changed was that the muggers and burglars knew for sure that their targets were not armed. Their confidence soared and they are now far more prepared to use their weapons, knowing that we don't have any. That is what the bans changed.

I've never owned a gun. In the past, anyone breaking into my home didn't know that for sure. Now they do. Has that improved my safety?

Those who drive well over the current limit will still do it over the new limit. So what is the point of this new law? Who is its target?


Have a glass of wine in the evening then set out to pick up your child from his friend's house. You're done. Go to a restaurant and have a meal with wine. You're done. Have a nice day out with a pub lunch somewhere quiet. You're done.

This new law is not intended to make the roads safer nor is it intended to reduce drink-driving. It cannot do that and those who designed it are well aware of this.

This new law is designed to collect revenue from you. Yes, you. Not me. You.

It makes no difference to me what the drink-drive limit is set to. Why would I care?

Well, if you're an antismoker, it is tempting to just sit back and watch you go through the same thing we smokers have experienced. I can't, because this is not revenge, this is progression.

It's a progressive agenda, you see. Smokers were not the end of that agenda. We were just an early item.

You're all on that agenda. Somewhere down the list, you're all there. Every one of you.

So, do you want the smokers to help? Not yet, I suspect. You're not ready. You still think you have nothing to hide and nothing to fear but you'll see. One day you will find the Thought Police have noticed you and you won't know what to do, nor where to hide. Then, perhaps, you will call out for help.

We smokers might still be prepared to listen at that point. Or we might not. It depends on how we're treated in the meantime.

That part is entirely up to you.


JuliaM said...

"(do they still exempt old cars?)"

Sort of. It used to be on a rolling 25 year exemption basis. Now, it's only for cars built before 1st Jan 1973.

Someone wised up, and realised this was a niche interest and if they slapped on a styealth tax, only those weirdos who liked old cars (instead of getting taxis everywhere on the taxpayer's dime, like all normal people do) would be affected.

JuliaM said...

Just looked up your Ford Cortina Estate Mk II 1600E on Wiki - I guess it brings you even less comfort to know this would still be exempt despite the rule change?

Sorry! ;)

TheFatBigot said...

Before the arbitrary drink-drive limit came into effect drink was regularly used in mitigation when errant drivers came up in front of the magistrates.

"Sorry, I lost control but I'd spent the night in the Dog & Duck playing darts" ... "We understand entirely Mr Smoggins, we've all been in that position, ten shilling fine and good luck in the darts tournament next week."

I have often driven when over the arbitrary limit but only rarely driven when drunk, the last time was about twenty years ago. I'd been for a curry after work on Friday and waited and waited for a taxi. Four pints before dinner, a bottle of wine with dinner and three large ports were taking their toll on the old bladder. So I waddled fifty yards back to the workplace, flopped into the car and drove home. The only scary moment was when a police car pulled alongside at a set of traffic lights. I got back safe and sound, no scratch to anyone's paintwork and no squashed children.

I don't recommend anyone to do the same but I wouldn't mind putting the cost of an onion bhaji on the chance of many thousands being in the same position and still having, as I do, an unblemished license.

Arbitrary anything is a bad idea, perhaps that it why it has been the foundation of so much new criminal law over the last decade and more.

Anonymous said...

Ah mkII cortinas with the five bearing crankshaft

Anonymous said...

Look up the Grand Rapids survey. It is where they got the data from when they set the 80mg limit we have. They found accident rates reduced between 0mg and around the 80mg mark before increasing afterwards. So the limit was sensibly set with the correct use of scientific data. Lowering the limit will move the line to where a higher accident rate occurs. Therefore more people will die.

But as you say LI, this is nothing to do with safety, only money and control

Anonymous said...

Mister Choos raises an important point.

When the law is an ass, people ignore it. If you're going to be over the limit after half a pint of beer, you might as well have two - or three. The result will be the same, under the law.

I don't drink and drive, so the law doesn't affect me directly. But it will, should more people flout the law and imbibe even more alcohol before getting into their cars.

It seems to me that TPTB are going all out to enforce the smoking ban because it hasn't yet been fully accepted by the populace, whereas, the drink limit has. So they will continue to clamp down on it hard, until it is accepted.

Anonymous said...

Excellent work as ever, Leg-Iron.

I've taken a look at the stats surrounding the latest push for 50mg at my place.

IanPJ confirms there is "No directive as yet, but there is an 'Opinion of the Commission'. Govts must work towards that or face a directive"

Mrs Rigby said...

Excellent post, and spot on.

The rest of them won't know what's hit them when their 'fun' or 'leisure' is curtailed - as it surely will be unless the government is capable of resisting which, sadly I doubt they will.

Anonymous said...

I read today that they're also looking at legislation to cover driving whilst under the influence of prescription drugs. Also, if the drink-driving limit is reduced they might follow other countries and introduce less harsh penalties for minor infringement. Presumably, though, these must add up to the ultimate penalty.

I reckon the whole country's going to be unemployed or in prison soon (apart from the uber-righteous, of course)...


banned said...

As you say Leg-Iron, it is not those with a small, if illegal, amount of alcohol that kill people, it is those who drive while actually drunk. What perhaps is really scary is that 95% of road deaths are caused by people who are stone cold sober!

As mister_choos' stats suggest, those with 0-80mgs are capable of driving more carefully than when entirely sober.
This proposal is really part of the multi-pronged attack on drinkers that was widely predicted when smokers came under attack but this time they are fireing on all cylinders.

Signs all over the centres of towns and cities designating 'no drinking in public' zones creeping in all over the place and soon to be universal.

Proposals to ban retailing of alcohol below cost, enthusiastically supported by Tesco as it would give them total market domination.

Proposals to ban alcohol advertising as it is 'inherantly evil', just like tobacco.

Scare stories about binge drinking based on the false premise that 3 pints or half a bottle of wine constitutes binge drinking.

Lies about us being 'confused' by stronger booze (stronger than Polish Spirit or absinthe? I don't think so) or larger wine glasses.

Blatherings all over the radio (and presumably TV also?) about drinkers cost to the NHS with no counter about the enormous revenues extracted from it which, like tobacco, far exceed any social costs.

As you mentioned in an earlier post, ongoing denormalisation of alcohol by suggesting that 25 years is the accepted age of responsibility and creating a situation when you must leave your teenagers squabbling off the premises if you as a grown adult wish to buy alcohol.

Personally I don't care, my drink drive limit is also zero, I don't drink cheap booze, I had more or less given up on pubs before the smoking ban, I know what I like and don't need to be advertised to, I'm plenty old enough not to be worried about the "think 25" nonsense and no laws on gods earth will prevent me being woken up at 2am by some ( deep voiced, ie not a teenager ) drunken bloke roaring imitations of The Wurzels as he staggers home past my open windows.

Anonymous said...

A year or so before the smoking ban was approved by Parliament and was still under much discussion, I had a conversation at a party with a non-smoking drinker in which I told him that if he and his non-smoking friends didn’t lend a hand protesting against the possibility of a ban, then they would, without a shadow of a doubt, be next in line. His response was to look at me with a short of half-smile, as if he thought that I might be either joking or just slightly crazed, but either way he really didn’t believe a word I was saying. What amazes me more than anything else is that non-smoking drinkers simply never saw this coming, and indeed many of them still persist in believing that restrictions on drinking will only ever be limited to teenage binge-drinkers or hardened alcoholics.

In truth, the most effective deterrent which non-smoking drinkers could invoke would be to protest, loudly and robustly, for an amendment or repeal of the smoking ban – even if in reality they like it or agree with it. Had they done so before the ban was voted upon, the Righteous would still have their hands tied up in the “anti-smoking crusade,” and wouldn’t now have the time to turn their attention elsewhere. And if they want to stop the onward march of the embryonic anti-alcohol movement dead in its tracks, they should still do it now. But will they? Not a chance. The it-doesn’t-affect-me-so-I’m-not-bothered attitude still prevails. So, in many ways, non-smoking drinkers (and some smoking ones, too) have brought this upon themselves to a large extent. You reap what you sow, as they say …….

Gareth said...

Thats a brilliants post!

Anonymous said...

I live in a country with a zero tolerance law with regard to drink driving. This country also has random check points and gives breathalyzer tests to drivers without due cause. It's accepted here, and while the locals consume more beer per capita than (so I'm told) any other country in Europe, I've never heard of anyone being in a drink driving accident, and I don't know of anyone who drinks and drives.

Of course, these sober drivers are the worst/most dangerous I've ever seen, to the point I have stopped driving, myself, out of fear. The road rage and intentional targeting of pedestrians is unreal -- even if the latter is a mother pushing a pram in a crosswalk. (Though to be fair they are very good about stopping if you're walking with a dog.)

But the point I wanted to make was these same non-drinking drivers are allowed to use their mobile phones while driving. Not to phone, mind -- that's illegal. But sending a text message? Sure. Cos having your eyes averted while driving is always a safe practice...

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