Monocolumn

A daily bulletin of news & opinion

15 August 2014

Earlier this week I passed my driving test – just the 14 years after my fifth failed attempt to become legal behind the wheel. That said, I only resumed lessons a few months ago rather than preparing solidly for this moment since the age of 18; I’m not that inept.

Anyway, I was, as you might guess, keen to celebrate. This – and you’re probably ahead of me here as well – involved a visit to the pub when I got home after work. Yet my initial elation as I clinked glasses with my fiancée turned to alarm even before the first sup of sparkling passed my lips: what effect will my newly earned road privileges have on my drinking agenda?

Before you worry that Monocle has a soused chief sub, I don’t have an actual drinking agenda; there is no to-do list of untried tipples in my back pocket nor stringent gin and tonic targets to be met. However, with a permanent spot in the passenger seat having coincided with my lifetime alcohol intake thus far, I have been able to relax at any events or parties regardless of the transport required to reach them. “Who’s driving tonight, dear? You again is it? Lovely. Barkeep? A bottle of Hendrick’s and leave the tonic tap running, would you?”

No more. In fact, wife-to-be probably only agreed to marry me because she was confident the tables were set to turn in the near future. I might as well resign to my fate and have “Designated driver” seared onto my forehead.

As it happens, my concerns have surfaced in the same week that the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Committee on Alcohol Misuse has called for a reduction of the drink-driving limit. It currently stands at 80mg per 100ml of blood, whereas across most of the rest of Europe it is 50mg – one small glass of beer or wine – which is the suggested cut-off point here. Even someone with a blood-alcohol level at the lower limit is three times more likely to die in a crash than someone who has abstained.

I hope that it passes from proposal to law in the blink of an eye. Prior to becoming roadworthy I always thought that when it came to it, I wouldn’t touch a drop when driving – a resolution I’ll put into practice from here on in. Anything else is like electing to do a bungee jump but loosening a screw or two on the carabiners first; why risk it?

Of course, any calls for zero-tolerance becoming law would result in numerous knee-jerkers running into the middle of the debate, shouting “Nanny state!” and running off again – while the rest of us pelt them with statistics along the lines that one in six deaths on UK roads is alcohol related. So in the meantime I’ll leave the popping of corks until journey’s end regardless – and suggest the good lady enjoy a well-earned merlot in the passenger seat.

Dan Poole is Monocle's chief sub editor.

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