Designated drivers to be offered free soft drink

Designated drivers will be offered a buy one, get one free deal on soft drinks in pubs as part of the Government's Christmas anti-drink-drive campaign launched today.

The Government's road safety campaign Think! has joined Coca-Cola to offer the drinks in more than 8,000 participating pubs.

The offer is in addition to radio advertising, posters in pub toilets and online search activity in a campaign that will run until January 2.

Launching the campaign, road safety minister Mike Penning said: "Drivers should be in no doubt that if they get behind the wheel after drinking this Christmas, they risk losing their licence as well as facing a fine and even a prison sentence.

"Last year 380 people were killed in accidents where the driver was over the limit. That is why our message is clear: don't drink and drive."

Chief Constable Mick Giannasi, head of roads policing with the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: "This year we are using information from the public to target those areas where drink-driving is a particular problem and so the chances of getting caught are greater than ever.

"If the police stop a driver, and there is any suspicion that they have been drinking, then they will be asked to provide a breath test and drivers should be in no doubt that if they are found to be over the limit they will be brought before the courts.

"Many drivers don't realise that alcohol stays in the system for a number of hours, and that they could still be over the limit the next morning when driving to work or dropping the children off at school. That is why we are asking drivers to be safe, not sorry, this Christmas."

Coca-Cola Great Britain and Ireland manager Jon Woods said: "This Christmas we're proud to be partnering with the Government's Think! initiative to help raise awareness of responsible drinking."

As the campaign was launched, the AA released details of a poll of 18,251 of its members which showed that the most popular excuse for drinking and driving is, "It's only down the road".

The next most-heard excuse is, "I've had food so that will have soaked the alcohol up".

Other frequent excuses are, "It's been a while since the last drink", or "There won't be any traffic around" or "I won't get caught".

As many as 67% of 18 to 24-year-olds had heard the "only down the road" excuse and 35% the "I won't get caught" response.

The AA/Populus poll, released today, revealed that more young drivers had heard excuses for drink-driving than older motorists.

AA president Edmund King said: "There is no excuse for drink-driving. Drivers must accept responsibility and stop making excuses for drink-driving. A short journey or a low-perceived risk of being caught are not valid excuses for breaking the law and putting lives at risk.

"The 'It's only down the road' excuse can easily end up with a trip to the morgue. Our key message is, if you are going to drink, don't drive, and if you are going to drive, don't drink."

The AA has joined drinks company Pernod Ricard UK in a national Christmas anti-drink-drive campaign.

Pernod Ricard UK's chief executive Jean-Manuel Spriet said: "We all have a role to play in preventing drink-driving. Those that hear the excuses can accept responsibility too - by pointing out that the excuse does not justify the risk."

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