Last week, Sussex Police released some pretty shocking first-person dashcam footage of the journey taken by a 41-year-old teacher which ended in her crashing into parked car. It wasn’t easy to watch, as there were several occasions when it seemed that her journey was going to come to an even earlier end as she surpassed speed limits, crossed over into the oncoming lane and made her way up grassy verges and embankments. 
I’m sure you can guess what the reason behind this dangerous driving was. Yes, it was due to drink driving. When the police caught up to her following calls from concerned members of the public, she was still more than twice the legal drink drive limit. According to the timestamp on the footage, this all took place at around five in the afternoon: a time when children have been released from school and there’s generally more traffic on the road. 
In court, she pleaded guilty and was disqualified from driving for two years, sentenced to a year long community order to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work and had to pay both costs and a victim surcharge. In the comments under the video, the public were unimpressed with the punishment, feeling that it should have been much more. It was only through luck that there weren’t any pedestrians walking along the side of the road and that she crashed into an empty, parked car rather than perhaps a school bus.
I don’t think I will ever understand the mentality of someone who makes the decision to drive after drinking and it is exactly that: a decision. You choose to have a drink or two and you choose to pick up the keys and get into the car. By doing so, you’re making a choice to risk your own life but also risking the lives of every other person using the road or the pavements around it. 
Most people reading this will know how it feels to enjoy an alcoholic drink. After the first glass of wine or pint of beer, you can feel that it’s affecting you somehow. You can’t quite put your finger on it but there’s been a slight shift. Jokes are a little funnier, you feel much more relaxed and even the silliest of suggestions can seem like a good idea. After two or three, you’re running the risk of going wild in the world of online shopping. By four, many people will have decided that they’re well overdue a long nap and the urge is so pressing, that things like taking out contact lenses or unlacing shoes are precious minutes that cannot be sacrificed. 
If you’re laughing uncontrollably at something that wouldn’t normally warrant even a snort, there’s no way you should be getting behind the wheel. And that goes for being under the influence of anything: if you can feel it hitting your mental processing in any way, then don’t be taking to the driver’s seat of that big hunk of heavy metal. 
Many people take medication and while most are perfectly fine to drive on, some may affect your ability to safely drive. If the PSNI stop you and find you unfit even through prescription drugs, then you’ll be taken in for a free blood test at the station and could face criminal charges if the test shows you’ve taken anything. If they don’t impair you however, then you’re free to continue. It’s all about making that judgement call for yourself because only you know how certain medicines react in your own body and whether that leaves you responsible enough to operate a vehicle. 
Everyone seems to think that it’s only the younger drivers who are a risk on the roads, and statistically, they’d be correct as figures show that drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 are three times more likely to die in a road related incident than those between 40 and 49. 
Of course, much of this will come down to experience. The driving test only teaches you so much. I was terrified the first time I did an overtake, targeting a slow-moving bin lorry, because it wasn’t something I’d had to deal with in my lessons. You’re facing so many new situations in the first year or two of driving, that it’s inevitable that mistakes are going to be made. When that inexperience is mixed in with overconfidence and cockiness, then it can be a deadly cocktail. 
So you would be forgiven for thinking that with age and experience, the number of driving offences would lessen but that doesn’t appear to be the whole truth. 
While younger drivers account for a high number of those given fixed penalty notices for the likes of speeding, driving under the influence and issues with insurance, those in the 30 to 49 age bracket are just as likely to speed, accounting for 42 per cent of all detections for speeding last year and make up just over 50 per cent of all mobile phone offences according to PSNI statistics from last year. 
It’s something I’ve noticed in passing as well. I’m very much one of those people who drives with the belief that every other person on the road is a danger, and unfortunately, I keep having my suspicions proven.   
Perhaps it’s because I learnt to drive when mobile phones were already banned and for as long as I can remember it’s been compulsory to wear your seatbelt. When we were younger, Mum would refuse to let the car move an inch if one of us was playing up and refusing to stay buckled in and because of that early teaching, it now feels totally wrong if I’m in a car and not wearing a seatbelt, even if I’m only repositioning by a few inches in the driveway. 
Yet I notice so many people who only begin to put on their belts as they exit a car park, focusing on finding the clicker rather than the road they’re about to join. That old DoE road safety advert plays over in my head as I see it and it makes me feel so uneasy. It’s not just yourself that you’re risking by trying to multitask: it’s the person you could roll into that is at risk as well. 
My phone stays in my bag or a pocket when driving and is set to automatically connect to the radio. Anyone who has had the misfortune of calling me when I’m driving gets deafened by a loud “you’re on handsfree!” before a single greeting can be exchanged. It seems to work in my favour though as I’ve noticed a significant decline in scam phone calls since doing so at all opportunities. Perhaps I’ve finally been blacklisted. 
It was only the other day when I nearly met another car head on as it crossed to my side of the road. The other driver was a female of an age when she really should know better than to take junctions early while holding a phone to her ear. Thankfully I was able to brake sharply but had both of us been distracted and talking on the phone, then it could have been mentioned in the newspaper for an entirely different reason altogether. No phone call is that important and if you think that it might be, for goodness sake pull over somewhere to answer. 
I doubt there’s anyone who hasn’t been personally affected by a needless death due to someone driving in a way they shouldn’t have been and yet so many people still think that they can flout the law and get away with it. With the recent introduction of randomised breath tests here and hopefully a local mirroring of the stricter mobile phone driving laws that were introduced in England last year, it is at least making it easier to catch these people when their common sense and respect for life does not and most importantly, catching them before they cause any real harm to anyone else.