Picture a typical drink driver. Who do you see? How old are they?
Chances are, they’re quite young; perhaps in their early 20’s.
Now, what would you say if we told you that over 1 million motorists over the age of 55 have admitted to driving while drunk?
As WrightStart pride themselves on offering driving lessons to many older people, this came as quite a shock to us. But a recent survey by Direct Line Motor Insurance found that 1.6 million motorists in this age group have owned up to possibly being over the limit behind the wheel.
Furthermore, 750,000 of them admitted getting behind the wheel the day after a night of drinking – implying a gap in people’s knowledge about how long it takes for alcohol to work its way out of your system. (For the record, it’s about 1 hour per unit of alcohol, but can change depending on weight, age, et cetera.)
The survey also revealed other startling misconceptions about the relationship between alcohol and driving. Just over 1 million older drivers surveyed said that they believed men were able to drink more than women while still being safe to drive. Again, this is actually down to a variety of factors, such as your weight and diet.
1.2 million of those surveyed excused their driving because their trip was only for a short distance, while a further million drivers thought that eating a large meal cancelled out the effects of alcohol. This is also false, as though eating before you drink can slow the speed at which alcohol defuses from your stomach into the rest of your body, it will never stop it completely, making it a flawed strategy for keeping yourself safe on the road.
The same thing goes for thinking you’re less at risk because of your age. Nearly 560,000 people thought that older drivers were safer drivers, and able to drink and drive as a result. This contradicts data from the Department for Transport, which says that 26% of all road accidents in 2017 (45,500 out of 175,000) involved older drivers. Additionally, Direct Line also analysed breathalyser test statistics, finding that drivers over the age of 50 account for around 15% of failed breathalyser tests in England. In comparison, those aged 20-34 account for more than half.
According to Steve Barrett, Direct Line’s head of motor insurance, the survey results showed how traditional stereotypes about drink driving don’t match the reality. “It is clear that younger drivers are not the only offenders when it comes to drink driving,” he said. “Motorists may become complacent as they get older because they feel they are so experienced behind the wheel, but tolerance levels differ hugely depending on body type. Just because someone doesn’t feel drunk or is only driving a short distance does not mean they are safe to drive.”