Festive Season… drinking… driving…

We’ve all been there.

It’s the festive season, everyone’s celebrating and you have a few too many drinks. You wake up the next morning and think: “Well that was a bit heavier than I expected, I hope I’m OK to drive…”

But imagine you wake up thinking that and then climb into a lorry full of beer.

That’s what Brian Dunn did in May this year. He was pulled over by the police in Manchester, blew a 53mg sample (the legal limit is 35), was charged, admitted drink driving and was banned for 14 months.

According to newspaper reports the man lost his job and had to go on benefits. His fine of £120, plus court costs of £85, had to come out of those benefits.

It’s easy to be blasé about the legal requirements for driving safely, especially when you’re a professional driver with years of experience. But we are all human and capable of poor judgement.

As the party season kicks off, the temptations will be higher, but so will the police efforts to keep the roads safe.

In order to avoid becoming a cautionary tale, bear in mind:

The penalties for drink/drug driving, if you are convicted, are:

  • A minimum 12-month driving ban
  • A criminal record
  • An unlimited fine
  • Up to 6 months in prison
  • An endorsement on your driving license for 11 years

The consequences of a drink/drug drive conviction are far reaching and can include:

  • Job loss
  • Loss of independence
  • The shame of having a criminal record
  • Increase in car insurance costs
  • Trouble getting in to countries like the USA

In Scotland, the drink driving limit was reduced in 2014 from 80mg/100ml to 50mg/100ml and last year the SNP was looking at proposals from a back bencher on reducing limits further for lorry and bus drivers.

If you’re an employer, you may be concerned about the risks to your workforce over the festive period.

Whilst it is generally inappropriate for an employer to dismiss an employee automatically following a drink driving conviction, much depends on the nature of the work, the terms of the contract and the circumstances of the conviction.

If an incident occurs during the hours of work, as an employer you probably have grounds to dismiss for gross misconduct. Other consequences include the potential impact on any operator’s licence and insurance issues for drivers that you employ.

But firstly, don’t overreact. Some hints are:

  • Talk to the employee caught drink driving to understand the circumstances and the severity of the charges
  • If they’re driving on company insurance, inform your insurers of the situation and act on any advice from them and establish whether they are willing to allow the employee to continue to drive on the policy.
  • If the employee caught drink driving is not to be allowed to drive, consider whether there are alternative duties that you can temporarily allocate to the employee, or are there other ways that you can provide transport for them to do their job. Is there a colleague who you could ask to drive them to essential appointments?
  • If you can’t provide alternative work and you aren’t able to allow them to continue to drive on business for you there may be no other alternative but to suspend the employee on full pay whilst you investigate the matter under the company disciplinary policy.
  • Convene a disciplinary hearing to consider the evidence available.

I hate to be a killjoy – I love a few drinks with friends – but given the enormous vehicles many FACTS readers drive, it really is essential that they be driven safely. You only have to see the destruction caused in Nice when 84 people were killed by the truck driven by a terrorist, or read the heart-breaking reports of the Polish lorry driver who was looking at his phone and crushed a car carrying a whole family, or even remember the horror of the bin lorry tragedy in Glasgow, to see the devastation one out-of-control vehicle can cause.

Have a safe festive season and I hope you won’t need to call me!

First appeared in FACTS magazine.

Scroll to top