By South Yorkshire Safer Roads Partnership manager JOANNE WEHRLE
HERE at South Yorkshire Safer Roads Partnership, we can’t actually believe that it’s December. The year has flown by and Christmas Day is just weeks away.
December is a busy time for most people, whether you’re buying presents, sorting out the kids’ school play costumes, managing the extra demand at work or plotting your hectic social calendar.
We’re all dashing around and finding it hard to slow down.
There’s definitely plenty going on at Safer Roads HQ. This week, we launched our annual Christmas Don’t Drink and Drive Campaign. While many people do drink responsibly over the party season (THANK YOU!), sadly some people still take risks and break the law.
We don’t want to be party poopers, but we hope that everyone in Rotherham shares our aim to make our roads as safe as possible. One of the ways we are trying to do that is by raising awareness about the dangers of drink or drug driving.
So why is having a tipple and then getting in your car or on your motorcycle so dangerous?
This is why: there is no safe limit for the amount of alcohol you can have before driving. There is also no way of knowing how long it will take for alcohol to be processed by your body.
Even a small amount of alcohol can affect your reaction times putting you and others at risk.
There is a legal limit to how much alcohol can be in a person’s system before they can drive, but it is impossible to say how many drinks or units it will take to reach it.
And it’s so important to remember that you could still be over the legal limit the following day. An average liver can process approximately one unit of alcohol per hour, starting one hour after drinking has stopped. This means that if someone drinks 12 units, it can take them roughly 13 hours to fully sober up.
So if you’re heading out to a party on a ‘school night’, it’s vitally important that you make sure you’re sober before you get in your car or on your motorcycle the next morning. If you have to, book the morning off work.
Any one of us could be caught out this way and the penalties, as well as the risks, are substantial.
If you are caught you may be banned from driving, have points added on your licence, an unlimited fine, or even imprisonment. This will mean increased insurance costs, potential job loss and even restrictions on travel to other countries.
So our advice, even though it might sound harsh, is to have NONE for the road. If you fancy a drink, please book a taxi, use public transport or get a lift home with a designated driver. It really isn’t worth the risk to you, your family or other road users.
If you decide to walk, just remember to take extra care crossing the road.
So let’s all make a pledge to have NONE for the road this festive season and if we can prevent a collision taking place, avoid any needless pain and suffering.
We must also remember that it’s not just drink driving that could ruin a family’s Christmas. Every day we face risks on the road and it’s so important that we all do as much as possible to look out for each other.
Winter weather itself poses a risk and there are many things we can do to reduce our chances of being involved in a collision.
In icy or snowy weather we advise that you do not travel unless your journey is essential. If you do decide to travel, take extra care and allow more time for your journey
Before setting off, check the news and weather to see if there is anything that may affect your journey. Bear in mind that weather conditions may be different at your destination.
Ensure your vehicle is roadworthy. In particular check that all your lights are working and that your tyres are in good condition.
Before you pull away, ensure that all your windows are clear of ice and snow. Make sure that your windows and mirrors are demisted thoroughly. Remove excess snow and ice from your roof and bonnet which could fall into the path of other road users.
If you are riding a motorbike or bicycle, ensure that your lights and brakes are working correctly, and consider wearing something both bright and reflective so that you can be easily seen.
Be extra vigilant in rainy or snowy weather, or if the road is icy. Always drive at a speed which is appropriate to the road conditions, driving in as high a gear as possible, accelerating and braking very gently. Remember, stopping distances can be up to ten times greater in icy conditions.
Look out for motorcyclists and pedal cyclists who may have to swerve suddenly to avoid ice patches or other obstructions.
It is also recommended that you keep an emergency kit with your vehicle which includes a blanket, warm clothing and waterproof boots, a first aid kit, de-icer, and an ice scraper. A warm drink and some food supplies may also come in useful.
All that is left for us to say is to wish everyone in Rotherham a safe and happy Christmas and to thank all the responsible road users out there. We really do appreciate it.