CHARLES GRAHAM - Soft drinks deal could save lives

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I HAVE interviewed too many relatives of people killed or maimed by drink-drivers to take this subject lightly.

It never ceases to amaze me how many folk still gamble and get behind the wheel after a skinful. This after so many deaths, so many campaigns, so much shame and stigma that can be attached to those who are caught.

Perversely, to some drink-driving may even be a badge of honour to see what liquor levels they can get away with, perhaps with a few illegal drugs thrown in for good measure.

Granted, the number of serious casualties as a result of drink-driving has dropped markedly since the authorities stopped turning a blind eye to it 30 or so years ago.

But the number of folk still failing breath tests and getting involved in accidents while under the influence shows that there remains more than a hard core of idiots to educate or punish.

In fact newcomers to driving are among the worse offenders (one reason explaining why insurance premiums for novice motorists like my daughter are so abominably high).

The sanctions for those caught can be life-changing: lost car, lost job, relationship breakdowns, uninsurability, even a prison record.

And the consequences for innocent victims are blindingly obvious to us all.

So as it came round to the annual national THINK drink-drive campaign this week it was pleasing to see that a new incentive was on offer to prevent this fatal folly.

A number of local pubs and clubs have joined a new scheme, which has the backing of Coca Cola, giving free soft drinks to designated drivers all night.

It’s not always much fun seeing all your mates getting slowly sozzled while you stay stone cold sober.

Of course for those many teetotallers out there this is an opportunity to be seized on every night out.

But the idea certainly has its attractions for temporary abstaining drinkers too, even if there is so much cola, lemonade, fizzy water or orange juice you can manage.

I liked the supplementary suggestion ventured by Tony Callaghan, owner of the Fifteen chain of bars this week, that all the drinkers benefiting from one mate’s abstinence should also chip in and buy him or her their food for the evening as an extra reward.

After all their gallantry is saving them either a taxi fair, a long walk home or a ride with a dangerously drunken driver at the wheel.