One over the 35 (or 22 north of the border)

This week Sue Baker tells us why her kitchen is filled with leftover bottles of alcohol-free Christmas tipples!

There is currently a bottle of mulled wine and a case of beer parked on the kitchen table in our house. Sounds pretty normal for this time of year? A nice collection of tipple left over from post-Christmas festivities and seeing in the New Year? Actually, it’s not quite what it seems. It’s all non-alcoholic.

Before you turn up your nose at something that doesn’t sound very merry, let me just say that we are planning a night out with friends, and someone has to be duty driver. That’s my evening sorted then, merry in mood only, and not in consumption. Stone cold sober while everyone else is enjoying a convivial glass or three. Cheers!

Value my car


It’s in a good cause. The police are active with their usual turn-of-year drink-drive campaign, and it just isn’t worth the risk of being caught over the limit. Not if you value your licence, anyway. Driving inebriated is a pretty stupid thing to do at any time of the year, and it’s particularly daft in mid-winter when the going is wet or frosty and frequently slippery, the roads are busy and the cops are on high alert to catch chancers.

Breathalyser blues

I recall only too well being pulled in by the police around this time last year in a roadside spot-check that was taking place near my home, when I was driving back close to midnight from an evening out. Asked ‘Good evening madam, have you been drinking?’ I could truthfully reply ‘Yes, a bottle of water at the cinema.’ I was waved cheerily on my way. Others, less cautious, were being invited to blow into a breathalyser, and some were heading for a very long night at a police station.

The legal drink drive limit for breath alcohol in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is 35 micrograms of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of breath. If you are reading this in Scotland, you’re probably acutely aware that the limit is lower, at 22 micrograms, in line with most of the rest of Europe.

Value my car


Last December, police carried out 133,996 breath tests on UK roads. Happily the failure rate was low at just 4.39 per cent, showing that the vast majority of drivers do play safe. But it did mean 5,885 drivers whose New Year was blighted by a positive result. Proportionately, young drivers aged under 25 were more likely to be caught out, with a failure rate of 6.33 per cent.

Enjoy your tomorrow too

Perhaps unsurprisingly, three times as many men fail a breath test after an accident than women, even though female drivers make up around half of full driving licence holders. Well, if someone is being duty driver for a night out, who usually does the job in your family? Yes, same here.

The AA has been running a campaign over the Christmas and New Year period with the slogan ‘Enjoy your evening, and your tomorrow’, especially targeting young adults who may be tempted to get behind the wheel after a few drinks.

In a poll, the AA asked its members if they would report it to the police if they saw a clearly drunk stranger getting behind the wheel, and half said they would. But it’s a different story when a friend or relative is involved. Then barely three per cent say they would pick up the phone and alert the authorities.

Value my car


Even so, there’s still a fair chance of being shopped by a rightly disapproving onlooker if you have a skinful and take a chance on driving home.

So cheers, raise a glass to a happy and prosperous 2016, and may all of us who will be driving on a night out do the sensible thing and stick to the soft stuff. At least till we’re safely back indoors and ready for a nightcap!





Sue Baker is a seasoned motoring journalist with a love of all things automotive.