Drink Driving – How Attitudes Have Changed in the Last 50 Years

10th November 2014

In 1964 before the first laws on drink driving were introduced the Government released their first ever public information film warning people of the dangers of drink driving. The advert was aimed at women in a bid to get them to stop their husbands and partners taking to the wheel after they have had a few drinks. The advert which was set at a Christmas Party reminded people that "4 single whiskeys and the risk of accident can be twice as great… If he's been drinking, don't let him drive." At the time this advert was released attitudes on drink driving where relaxed to say the least, research carried out in 1979 showed that nearly two thirds of young male drivers admitted drink driving on a weekly basis. Since the advert was released fifty years ago we have seen a massive change in people's attitudes, a recent survey carried out by THINK! Showed that 91% of the 2,000 people surveyed agreed drink driving was unacceptable and 92% of people said they would feel ashamed if they were caught drinking and driving.

It's great to see how much people's attitudes to drink driving have changed but road safety charity Brake want to see a complete change in attitudes to stop drink driving casualties altogether. They are calling for a zero-tolerance approach to drink driving in a bid to eradicate fatalities and accidents. The charity discovered that since the Governments first drink drive campaign was launched in 1964 there have been over 25,000 deaths on UK roads caused by people driving while over the legal limit. The research also showed that since 1979 the number of deaths caused by drink driving has declined from 1,640 deaths in 1979 to 230 deaths in 2012. Although it's great to see the number of casualties has declined Brake want to take that number to zero.

This year's annual drink driving campaign by THINK! is also calling on the number of drink driving deaths to be reduced to zero. This year's advert shows members of the emergency services singing Cool & The Gang's 1980's hit 'Celebration' whilst trying to resuscitate a victim of a drink driving accident before delivering the devastating news to the family. At the end of the advert the message is '230 is still too many' referring to the numbers of deaths in 2012.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said of the latest ad campaign: " The change in attitudes to drink driving over the last 50 years is a huge success story. It is hard to imagine now how shocking and ground-breaking the first drink drive campaigns were when they launched. Clearly THINK! has had a significant impact.

"Most of us understand drink driving wrecks lives but there is further to go. In 2012, 230 people were killed in drink driving accidents – 230 too many. This makes the THINK! campaign as relevant as ever."

Charity Brake is also calling on the Government to introduce a zero tolerance drink drive limit of 20mg alcohol per 100ml of blood, to send a clear message that drink driving is totally unacceptable in this day and age. In Scotland the Government are about to change the legal limit of alcohol allowed while driving from 80mg to 50mg per 100 millilitres of blood in time for the festive period. The new laws come into effect on the 5th of December and will bring Scotland into line with most EU countries including Northern Ireland. In England and Wales the legal limit still stands at 80mg per 100 millilitres of blood.

By Jenna Niblock