Police warn that a few hours' sleep will not help you avoid being caught drink-driving

Daily Echo: Echo reporter Rory McKeown taking a breath test Echo reporter Rory McKeown taking a breath test

IT is the season of goodwill when millions of people across the county are celebrating Christmas at office parties and family gatherings.

The famous phrase “eat, drink and be merry” could not be more apt for this time of year with party-goers getting into the festive spirit by knocking back the alcohol.

A few beers or glasses of wine followed by a shot or two could be the norm during a Christmas party, and many unwittingly get behind the wheel the next morning while still over legal alcohol the limit.

But what are the risks involved with driving the next day?

The message from police officers is simple – it’s not worth the risk.

Sergeant Glen Barham says many people do not realise they are still over the drink-drive limit the morning after the night before.

On average it takes around one hour per unit for alcohol to pass through the body.

However this depends on a number of factors including size, gender, tolerance to alcohol, the amount of alcohol consumed, and the speed of the body’s metabolism.

For example, a 330ml bottle of five per cent strength lager would take two hours to pass through the bloodstream.

If a reveller drinks five bottles, they should not drive for at least 11 hours, meaning it would be 11am if they stopped drinking at midnight.

It takes two-and-a-half hours for a pint of four per cent strength lager to pass through the body, and startlingly a bottle of 15 per cent strength wine would take 13 hours.

Last year, 290 people were killed in drink-drive accidents in the UK – 17 per cent of all reported road deaths – and more people failed breath tests between the hours of 6am and 11am during the hour before or after midnight in 2011, according to of Association of Chief Police Officers.

Research by the road safety charity Brake found that more than half of young drivers, and more than a third of older motorists, drive the first thing after drinking a lot the night before – but far fewer are taking the risk of drink-driving at night.

Dr Paul Wallace, Drinkaware’s chief medical adviser, gives motorists a sobering reminder of how easy it is to be over the drink- drive limit the next day.

He said: “Imagine you’re drinking until three or four in the morning and you wake up at 8am.

“If you’ve had six or seven units, you could still have several units of alcohol in your body when you start your day. This is because your body can only process around one unit an hour.

“With several units of alcohol still in your body you would still be over the drink- drive limit.”

Sgt Barham said the aim of police officers is not to catch drink-drivers, but to highlight the dangers of it and deter people from doing it.

He said: “With any alcohol in system your reaction times are affected and your behaviour is affected and there’s evidence that even below the limit that will have influence on the way you react to things.

“We have a limit in the UK that we rely on. If you are over that limit there are personal consequences, such as the loss of a job, loss of income which can lead to loss of your house and the break-up of relationships. It really does go on and on.

“People do crash their cars on their way to work. If it’s linked in to alcohol and you’re responsible for injuring someone else, or, worse still, killing someone, then you have to cope with that for the rest of your life, and the family of those have been killed have to cope with that.

“It really is not something you take a chance on. The simple message is to plan. If you are going to Christmas party then don’t think you are ok to drive the next morning and if you are going to drive the next morning then don’t drink.”

He added that he has seen a decrease in people giving negative morning breath tests this year, but added people still need to take the message on board.

Sgt Barham added: “Very often people that get breath tested the next morning after a drink go immediately into panic mode, expecting it’s going to be over.

“If they think they might be over the drink-drive limit, they shouldn’t be driving. You have to get into a car and think if I’m breath tested would I be confident that I’m under the limit? If you are not 100 per cent confident, don’t do it.

“For us catching people is not the aim. Deterring people most definitely is.

“If people realise that drink-driving is not acceptable and they don’t do it, we will be fine with that.

“We don’t want to catch high numbers – in many ways that shows a society that has failed.”

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