One of the most extraordinary stories I have heard in my life as a journalist was the news that the high street chain JD Wetherspoon has been given the go-ahead to open a pub on the M40 (see Jane Merrick). The “bar and restaurant”, planned for Beaconsfield services, will be allowed to serve alcohol between 8am and 1am.
Most adults are more than capable of making responsible decisions, and I’m not suggesting that the road up to Birmingham will suddenly be overrun with drink-drivers, but the idea of putting temptation in the face of motorists is a very dangerous one.
We should not worry about those who are strong-willed enough to turn down the offer of any kind of alcoholic drink when driving. Equally, serial drink-drivers don’t need a pub to do it, although the presence of one won’t help those who easily succumb to temptation. But the issue isn’t merely making sure that drivers stay below the legal limit.
The bigger problem will be with those who claim a drink does not affect them as much as the man or woman at the next table. They are the people whom we must get to abstain. Tests over the years have shown that just one drink seriously reduces your reaction time. And it doesn’t take a genius to realise that when you’re travelling at 70mph, every second could be critical.
Of course, one would hope that most people who use the pub will be passengers, but to emphasise its responsibility to reducing drink-driving perhaps JD Wetherspoon should at least serve free soft drinks. But the last time I drove along the M40 it wasn’t so long that I couldn’t get from one end to the other without needing a pint.