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Drink-drive lesson fails to reach young.

Byline: By DAVID WILLIAMSON Western Mail

The message that drinking and driving is always dangerous is failing to reach Wales' youngest motorists, new figures suggest. Government figures show that last year 379 drivers or riders involved in accidents in Wales had alcohol in their bloodstream. Of these, 224 were under the age of 30.

Only three of the motorists was aged 60 or over.

South Wales police road safety officer Sgt Nigel Whitehouse said, 'Before, our stereotype of the drink driver was a male aged between 40 and 60.

'If we can go back five years, the young wouldn't drink and drive - but now, the pendulum's swung the other way... People aren't realising the strength of beer they're drinking.'

Aimee Bowen, spokeswoman for road safety group Brake, said confusion was rife among young drivers about the dangers posed by alcohol. She said that while encouragement could be taken from the fall in the numbers of older people drinking and driving, schools had to take on the task of better informing young drivers.

She said, 'Young people traditionally take more risks. Particularly young men. For the first time in your life you're allowed to drink and you're allowed to drive, but at no time is anyone telling you of the dangers of doing both at the same time.'

Brake's own research further reveals the scale of ignorance about the effects of alcohol on driving. A quarter of young drivers in Wales wrongly thought the drink-drive limit was the equivalent of three units or more (at least three small glasses of wine).

Ms Bowen said, 'Young people are very aware that drinking four pints and getting behind the wheel of a car is not the thing to do but many drivers feel it's all right to have a pint.

'In this country the limit is roughly one unit of alcohol which is about half a pint of normal strength lager. Most people think it's at least a pint.

'The other problem is a lot of people are over the limit the next morning.'

The Department of Transport warns, 'The legal alcohol limit for driving is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood but there is no failsafe guide to the amount of alcohol that a driver can safely consume.

'The amount and type of alcoholic drink, the weight, sex and metabolism of the driver all play a part. But any amount of alcohol affects driving ability.'

In 1999, there were 73 alcohol-influenced motorists aged 20-24 who were in an accident. This increased to 100 last year.

During the same period the figures for the number of positively-tested drivers in accidents aged 50 and above fell from 34 to 18.

Road users are at the greatest risk of becoming casualties because of a alcohol-influenced motorist during the months of May and September. The lowest numbers of casualties from accidents where there was at least one positive breath test were in January and February.

Overall, in 2003, 582 casualties were involved in accidents where there was at least one positive breath test. This is a drop of 11% from 2002.

On average, during the period 1999-2003, Merthyr Tydfil had the highest proportion of positive breath tests of drivers involved in accidents (5.5% compared to the Welsh average of 3.5%). In the same period, Monmouthshire had the lowest proportion (2.2%).

Merthyr Tydfil had the highest proportion of casualties in alcohol-related accidents (6.2%).: David, 12, helps to promote message:A schoolboy will see his message displayed across Wales after designing the winning poster for this year's Christmas drink-drive campaign. David Evans beat off hundreds of entries from across the country in the competition. The 12-year-old pupil of Glan-Y-Mor Comprehensive School in Burry Port will now see his design, featuring loaded dice, used to promote the campaign.

It features the slogan, 'Don't gamble with life, don't drink and drive.'

Carmarthenshire County Council teamed up with other local authorities, the National Assembly and the Road Safety Council of Wales for the competition.

It was aimed at educating young people and raising awareness of the dangers of drink driving.

Entries were judged on a county level by road safety officers and the police before being submitted to a national final.

David's poster was selected to be reproduced and used nationally.

Keith Griffiths, Carmarthenshire's road safety officer, said, 'The standard of entries was very high and it was clear that a great deal of thought and work had been put in by pupils.

'It is important that young people are educated about the perils of drinking and driving and this poster competition is one way of doing that.

'David is to be congratulated for his winning design. It will now be used nationally as part of the Christmas drink drive campaign.'

County councillor Pam Palmer said, 'This is an excellent initiative and I am pleased that there was such a good response.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 2, 2004
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