Campaign urges drivers not to have any alcohol: A television commercial to combat drink-driving has been deemed so distressing it cannot be shown before 9pm. Christian Wolmar reports

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The Independent Online
FOR THE first time, the Christmas drink-drive campaign, launched yesterday by the Department of Transport, attempts to emphasise that drivers should have no drinks at all rather than attempt to keep below the limit.

A 40-second television commercial shows attempts to revive a woman at the scene of an accident with electric shocks while the voice of the driver is heard to say 'I only had a quick one'.

The commercial, which consists entirely of one shot of the woman, who has one pupil dilated and blood pouring from a nostril, has been deemed so shocking by the Independent Television Association that it must be shown after 9pm to ensure children do not see it. It will be shown between now and the New Year at a cost of pounds 1.3m. It is aimed at men because 19 out of 20 of the 110,000 convicted of drink-driving offences each year are male.

At the press conference launching the campaign yesterday, Kenneth Carlisle, Minister for Roads and Traffic, said that even one drink could impair performance. He said: 'The only safe course is never to drink and drive.' However, in response to a question about whether the Government would reduce the legal limit of alchohol in the blood, the minister said that the present limit - 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood - was not being reconsidered. Ministers felt that any change would be unpopular and that the present limit is 'scientifically based' in that performance deteriorates quickly as levels of alcohol in the blood rise above the limit.

The Government now has two annual anti-drink driving campaigns, one at Christmas and a smaller one in summer. Although there is a slight increase in drink- related accidents at Christmas, about 12 per cent, the biggest peak is during the summer as a result of people driving to country pubs.

As drink-driving has become less acceptable in society, the number of road deaths caused by drinking and driving has fallen from about 1,500 in the early 1980s to 700 in the last year. However, at the launch, Alan Jones, an accident and emergency consultant said that the reduction in fatalities in road accidents - which have gone down from 5,447 in 1982 to 4,158 last year - was partly as a result of better medical treatment: 'We are saving people now, thanks to paramedics and better treatment, who previously would have died,' he said.

Police in England and Wales annually increase the number of breath tests they give, but the proportion of positive results has fallen considerably. In 1987, police administered 400,000 tests, of which a quarter proved positive. Last year 562,000 tests were done, of which only 15 per cent were positive.

Alcohol Concern, which yesterday welcomed the campaign, said that attention should be paid to the number of drunk pedestrians who die - about 560 per year. The group wants pub landlords to use their powers to refuse to serve people who are clearly drunk.

The RAC warned that people could still be over the limit the morning after drinking. A spokesman said: 'Someone . . . could easily have an alcohol level up to 200 milligrams per 100 millilitres at 11pm and at 6.30am next morning would still have 130 milligrams - way above the legal limit.'

(Photograph omitted)