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Wednesday, December 3, 1997 Published at 06:08 GMT


A glass too much this Christmas

"None for the road" is the Government's message to motorists this year, as it launches its 2m Christmas crackdown on drink driving.

Former motor racing world champion Damon Hill helped start the campaign, which features a new TV commercial aimed at young drivers.

The Government also announced a major expansion of its rehabilitation scheme for drink-drivers.

"The drink-drive campaign has been enormously successful in helping to reduce the toll of death and injury on the roads," said Minister for Transport Gavin Strang.

"The advice `Don't drink and drive' has always been clear. This year's message `Have none for the road' re-emphasises the call not to mix drinking and driving."

The TV advertisement, which is aimed at young male drivers, shows a group of young people wrongly believing that they can stay in control of cars after drinking.

The message is clear: even small amounts of alcohol can effect your driving.

The government may be reacting to last year's drink-drive statistics, when the number of accidents caused by drink driving in England and Wales rose by over 300 to 10,550.

Many drivers and road safety groups are calling for a complete ban on drink driving.

This could be the last Christmas drink-drive campaign conducted under the existing legal blood-alcohol limits.

Transport ministers are expected to consult in the New Year about proposals to reduce the legal limit of alcohol in a driver's blood from 80 to 50 milligrams per 100 millilitres - a cut of nearly 40 per cent.

This would effectively mean that a driver could drink a maximum of one pint of beer or the equivalent.

Such a move has the general support of the public, in addition to police, safety groups and the medical profession. It would also bring Britain into line with a number of European countries.

Does Christmas campaigning actually work?

The 1997 Christmas campaign is the 21st consecutive government campaign against drink driving, and the longest ever publicity campaign by the Department of Transport.

The first campaign was run in 1965, when the current legal limit was introduced.

Since 1979, the death toll in drink-related accidents has fallen from 1,643 to 540 in 1996, which indicates that the campaigns have generally been successful.

The slogan "Think before you drink before you drive" was coined during the Christmas campaign of 1978, when the government also tried to educate drivers about the effects of even small amounts of alcohol.

The following year the emphasis was shifted to the terrible consequences of involving friends and loved ones in a drink-drive accident.

The advertising also showed the legal and social consequences of a conviction.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s the campaigns targeted men in their twenties from lower socio-economic groups.

In the summer of 1987 the government launched the very graphic "Drinking and Driving Wrecks Lives" campaign, which highlighted the human consequences of drink-drive accidents and targeted a wider audience.

Although recent Christmas campaigns have challenged the myth that drink-drive accidents are only caused by noticeably drunk drivers, the number of drink-drive deaths has remained constant over the last three years.

More worryingly, the number of accidents involving drink-drivers has actually started to rise since 1993.

According to the pressure group Alcohol Concern, it is a myth that most accidents happen at Christmas. The highest figures are consistently found in May, June and July.

Last year the government tested more almost three times more people during December than in May, June and July. Whereas only 7% tested postively during December, 17% tested positively in June.

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