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Road safety this christmas

In 2011 there were 280 deaths and nearly 1300 serious injuries caused by drivers who were over the legal drink driving limit. These figures indicate that approximately 1 in 7 road deaths involved drink driving. During the 2011 Christmas and New Year period 7200 arrests were made from roadside alcohol tests carried out.

It is important to remember the damage a motor vehicle can cause a person. Road traffic accidents cause some of the most serious and fatal injuries seen by personal injury solicitors whether the injured person is a driver, passenger, cyclist or pedestrian. As the above statistics demonstrate, drink driving has a large part to play in these injuries, and as we approach the festive season more risks are taken whilst celebrating which can have devastating effects on lives.

The current legal drink driving limit in the UK is 35microgrammes of alcohol per 100ml of breath, 80mg per 100ml of blood and 107microgrammes per 100ml of urine. These limits cannot be assessed per quantity of drink as alcohol affects people differently depending on factors such as weight, height, what you’re drinking and how much you’ve recently eaten. The only way to be sure you aren’t over the limit is not to drink at all before driving.

The usual Christmas drink driving campaigns are now starting. This year, Devon and Cornwall Police, Devon Fire and Rescue Service and Torbay Council Road Safety Team are working together and will be displaying a damaged car with drink driving messages and a Fire simulator which demonstrates how your driving is affected by alcohol will be available for members of the public to try.

However, it isn’t just drink driving which can end badly. All too often, serious injuries are also the consequence of walking and cycling whilst under the influence of alcohol. Pedestrians should wear bright clothing, avoid walking in the carriageway and ensure that they use proper crossings to avoid accidents and cyclists should not cycle whilst drunk. Drivers need to take extra caution as the burden of avoiding pedestrians and cyclists affected by alcohol remain with them. In civil claims for compensation, it isn’t a sufficient defence to say that they stumbled into your path. As a driver you are in control of a motor vehicle which can cause serious damage to the human body and it is therefore your responsibility to be extra vigilant at this time of year. It is quite common for the blame in accidents which have involved a pedestrian or cyclist who has been drinking to be apportioned between both parties. Legal advice in such circumstances should always be sought.

Whilst accidents are to be expected this Christmas, they could be avoided. If planning a night out, remember to plan how you are getting home – agree a designated driver, book a taxi or save their number to your phone or use public transport where available. Most importantly, stay safe and have a wonderful Christmas and New Year.

Harris Fowler has a specialist road traffic accident team who can advise anyone who has been injured. Free and friendly legal advice is available on 0800 213 214 or visit

Harris Fowler is a trading name of Harris Fowler Limited and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority no. 558271.