12 Dec 2016

Had a drink after work and wondering if you’re still okay to drive home? Don’t.

That’s the message behind a new Road Safety campaign targeting the casual, after work drinkers who wonder if one or two drinks will have them over the limit.

If you have to think about it, you shouldn’t be driving.

Christchurch City Council Transport Operations Manager Steffan Thomas said most people now planned ahead and used taxis or sober drivers for their planned nights out, but casual drinkers may get caught in a pattern of thinking one or two drinks still leaves them safe to drive.

“We all know New Zealand has a “she’ll be right” culture, and this definitely comes through with drink driving. People need to make safe travel plans before they take the first sip of their drink. Plans made during or after drinking are likely to lack good judgement and people may fall into the trap of thinking ‘I’m probably okay to drive’. If you have to think about it, and work out how much you’ve had to drink, just stop. Think. It’s not worth it,” Mr Thomas said.

Emergency Department clinical director Scott Pearson.

Emergency Department clinical director Scott Pearson sees the end result of bad decisions made after a few too many drinks.

Figures show there have been 20 deaths and 119 serious injury road crashes caused by alcohol in Christchurch between 2011 and 2015. And 78 percent of all at fault driver crashes involving alcohol in Christchurch city were males.

“Our message is that there is no safe level of drinking for competent driving. If you’re drinking at all, just don’t drive. Any alcohol slows your reaction times, and dulls your judgement and vision. We’ve decided to focus this campaign on male drivers aged between 20 and 29, because they’re over represented in the statistics. We’ll be targeting the after work casual drinkers prior to Christmas, and the university students as Orientation week kicks in.”

Christchurch Hospital Emergency Department Clinical Director Scott Pearson said he had noticed an increase in alcohol-related injuries in recent weeks as end of year functions and Christmas parties rev up.

He supported the Council’s awareness campaign, saying people needed a reminder to plan a safe way home – either with a sober driver, a taxi or public transport - before they go out drinking.

After nearly 20 years working as an emergency doctor, he was familiar with seeing the end result of bad decisions made after a few too many drinks.

“Some of the moments that have stuck in my mind over 20 years of this job, are the times when I’ve had to go and talk to relatives of someone who has been seriously injured or killed as a result of drink driving. It really is an overwhelming experience to break that sort of news to family members. You know that they’re not really going to recover from it, the effects are so long-lasting. And it’s just so preventable.”

He said even the most sensible, intelligent people could be “blind-sided” by alcohol and its impact on their ability to make sound decisions. “That’s why they need to plan their way home before they start drinking. If you think you might be drinking, leave your car keys at home.”

Dr Pearson said people needed to be aware of the potential consequences of their decisions. “If you think you’re bullet proof and can handle the effects, then think about the other people out there on the road and how your actions might impact on them.”

Find out more on the Council’s Drink Driving campaign.