“There is a fear factor out there that you can't drive at all the morning after, and we want to make sure that people have the facts.”
That's according to John Clendennen, Chairman of County Offaly VFI (Vintners Federation of Ireland), speaking this week about a new public awareness campaign from the VFI about driving safely the morning after a night out.
A two-minute video explains the facts about standard drink measures and how long it takes the body to process a standard drink. It was launched in response to widespread misunderstanding about changes to drink driving laws, with many people now worried about getting behind the wheel during the so-called 'morning after'.
John from Giltraps Pub in Kinnitty, says people are aware there have been changes to the law but are unclear as to what those changes are.
“I understand that the Minister [Shane Ross] wants to make the roads safer and as an industry we agree with this and don't condone drink driving with excessive amounts of alcohol. What we want is to make sure that people have the facts. There is a fear factor that you can't drive at all, but it's not the levels that have changed, it's the penalties.”
This refers to a change that came into effect last October, when the penalty for being caught driving over 50mg was increased from a fine to a three-month driving ban. The drink driving limits have remained unchanged since 2011, at 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, and 20mg for professional drivers, learner and novice drivers.
According to the VFI, this change, combined with the dramatic increase in Garda checkpoints “has led to an environment where rural dwellers feel they have no choice but to remain at home”.
“The so-called ‘morning after’ checkpoints are a hugely contentious issue as people feel persecuted, even after acting responsibly the night before. There is a general misunderstanding of how long it takes the body to process alcohol, consequently people fear driving the next morning, even though in most cases it is a totally unfounded fear,” said VFI chief executive Padraig Cribbin.
“Our campaign, which utilises data and examples from Drinkaware and the HSE, is designed to arm people with the knowledge to make an informed decision.”
However the VFI says there needs to be urgent action taken to address the issue of rural isolation, and John agrees that people are changing their habits in reaction to changing legislation.
“People are changing their habits. They are coming out earlier, or arranging alternative means of transport, or they are not coming out at all. They are aware that the stakes are higher. In our own area we have the Local Link bus service which has proven successful, but it's not one size fits all. We need to give the night-time economy an opportunity to be sustainable,” Cllr Clendennen.
To view the VFI's video, search for 'Driving the Morning After' on YouTube.