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2016 is rapidly approaching the festive season, and hasn’t this year flown by? But with Christmas coming up, the annual drink/drive campaign is being prepared, and planned and costed in police stations across the country.

It seems drink driving should be a curse of the past. Since figures were first collated in 1979, there has been a year-on-year fall in both the numbers arrested, and the traffic injuries and death in which alcohol was a factor. In 1979, the UK had 31,430 casualties, with 1,640 dead. By last year, those numbers were down to 8,120, with only 240 dead.

While any death is a tragedy, and some credit must be given to improvements in safety standards in vehicles, it is clear that drink driving has been in steady decline. So why are we seeing a sudden uptick in younger people being arrested for it?

From what we’ve seen at Glasgow Medical Rooms, few of those arrested for drink-driving are struggling with addiction in the way one might expect to see. Around 10% are self-declared alcoholics, or show signs of what would be considered functional alcoholism.

By far, the greater proportion are circumstantial drink drivers. These are young people who have turned to drink when they normally wouldn’t; dealing with things such as bereavements, being diagnosed with a serious illness – either themselves or a close family member- or the break-up of a relationship.

In trying to manage emotional pain with the false palliative of alcohol, they expose themselves to the danger of drink-driving, and its potentially life-ruining consequences. This is not an attempt to excuse the behaviour, nor to exculpate the thinking behind it, but simply a plea for understanding of what are often the emotional roots of this self-destructive behaviour.

If, however, there is one takeaway message from this worrying trend, it is that the ability to judge risk is impaired by both youth and alcohol, and an emotional pain will always be temporary, whereas the consequences of choosing to get behind the wheel drunk can be, and often are, permanent.


For further information, please contact Dr. Sheila O’Neill, Founder, Glasgow Medical Rooms, on Email:, or phone: 0141 225 0140.

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