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Blog: Festive driving traps to avoid

A variety of boozy drinksWould you go out for a night of drinking and then drive home afterwards? No, of course you wouldn't. And I wouldn't either.

But now it's the festive season, when everyone loosens up a bit.

There are times when work is put on hold to festoon the office with tinsel, or have secret santa present sessions.

Chocolate oranges are consumed at the morning tea break and people who normally wouldn't dream of drinking at lunchtime are lured to the pub.

Lunchtime drinking

Unlike evening drinking, when car-sharing, taxis or public transport are generally factored into the equation, many people think a drink at lunchtime will be fine.

After all, they won't be driving home for about four hours, and that's plenty of time for a drink to leave their system – isn't it?

But Peter Rodger, chief examiner at the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), disagrees.

"A glass of wine at the staff lunch may seem harmless, but could have serious consequences if you get behind the wheel.

"It's not only about your safety, but the safety of other road users too.

"It's not worth the risk, so choose one or the other – to drink or to drive."

What's more, the effect of a drink-driving conviction could see your car insurance costs soar.

Legal limit

And that really is the best approach, as although people will offer ideas of how much you can drink and "still be okay", the fact is that it's impossible to tell for sure.

The legal limit for drivers in the UK is 80 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood.

But even an amount well under that can affect your co-ordination and make accidents more likely.

How people process alcohol depends on factors such as their build, whether or not they've eaten recently and their general susceptibility.

In my twenties I could drink strong men under the table, but now after half a glass of wine I don't feel capable to be in charge of a bar stool, let alone a car!

The morning after

Another issue to be aware of is morning-after drink-driving.

When it's party time, people tend to go over the top and drink more than they would normally.

Which means that even if they get a cab home or stay over at a friend's they could still have alcohol in their system the following morning.

Ammelle Berrabah, a member of the pop group the Sugababes made just this mistake back in 2010 – she went out drinking with friends and then drove to an appointment with her personal trainer early the next day.

She was breathalysed by police, found to be over the limit and given a 14-month driving ban. 
Last but not least is the issue of driving tired.

Sleepy drivers

A study in the French journal Archives of Internal Medicine in May 2012 found that drivers who were sleepy were more than twice as likely to be involved in an accident as their well-rested counterparts.

Of course, Christmas is a time when many of us, myself included, get very tired.

But scheduling opportunities to catch up on sleep means enjoying the celebrations so much more – and staying safe.

If you're driving long distances to visit friends and relatives, insist on being left alone for a nap before you set off, or travel at a time that fits in with your body clock.

For example, as a morning person I would hate every minute of a late-night drive, but I'm capable of being annoyingly perky at 5am.

As the driver, this is the time to do whatever works best for you and for others to fit in.

Most of all stay safe and have a Christmas to remember for all the right reasons – not the wrong ones!

What do you think?

Of course, the safest bet is to not drive if you have consumed any alcohol at all, but you can work out how many units your drinks contain with our alcohol units calculator.

What are your thoughts on drink-driving? 

We want to hear from you! You can share your views on the message board below.

Maria McCarthy

Maria McCarthy

Maria McCarthy is a motoring and lifestyle journalist and author of The Girls' Car Handbook and The Girls' Guide to Losing your L Plates published by Simon and Schuster. She's also a regular on BBC Breakfast news, and local and national radio, commenting on motoring matters. Her pet motoring hates are potholes and high fuel prices.

View more from Maria

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