When Will They Ever Learn?

Throughout society we have rules, laws and regulations. There is no getting away from them. They govern our lives and behaviour.

There are many social reasons why people commit offences. Some simply through choice, some greed, some by example and others through desperation.

But it always surprises me that society as a whole can comply pretty much 100% with some rules yet continually fail in others. I’ll use two examples. They are not meant to be related but give an indication of the example I’m trying to draw.

The law preventing smoking in public places came into effect on 1.7.2007.

The current drink drive legislation is entombed in the 1988 Road Traffic Act. Such offences though stem back further to 1925 and the Criminal Justice Act of that year. However it was 1967 before the breathalyser at the roadside was introduced.

There was much upset over the smoking ban. This bit of legislation was not popular but overall the population have accepted it and comply. The problems envisaged never really came to the forefront. Our pubs, bars and restaurants have become much more pleasant places. Even custody suites! Years ago as a young probationer the most important piece of kit when working in custody was a lighter so you could light up the prisoners and keep ’em happy. The bottom line though is that we just comply.

So what’s the difference with drink drive? I spent some considerable years on a Road Policing Unit. I’ve seen lives and families torn apart by deaths from drink driving. The media is full of information and there is nobody who can say they are ignorant of the law in this area. Yet time and again the drink drivers just keep coming in. Worse still is the readings seem to be getting higher. Notwithstanding years of campaigns, public information adverts (THINK! etc) and enforcement campaigns by every force in the country it has little to no impact.

Now you may say that you don’t drink drive. You are a responsible motorist and would never do such a thing. I admire you. Neither would I. I plan to only ever see custody from this side of the desk! You may argue that this is just another offence by those in the “regular” criminal fraternity. Yet you’d be wrong. This offence knows no bounds and everybody and anybody from every social background is susceptible. It is the one offence that people come into custody for that would otherwise have no involvement with the police in their whole life.

So why can’t we comply? I don’t get it. We all know it’s wrong. We all know it’s more serious than pulling a sneaky drag in the pub. Yet we adhere to the minor and disregard the major. It’s like saying you’ll never steal a bar of chocolate but won’t worry about knifing someone. It just doesn’t add up.

I’m a proponent of a zero alcohol limit. This makes it clearer. The current limit is similar to introducing the smoking ban with a limit of one cigarette or half a cigar per person in a public place. Maybe it works because it is an outright ban. I’d like to think the same would work for drink drive.

The drink drive limit in breath is 35 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath. This weekend alone we have had people in who have blown 63, 84, 105 and 188! One of these had 4 children in the car at the same time!

It really is time this stopped.


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