As beer gardens and outdoor tables in restaurants and bars reopen a Birmingham motoring defence expert is calling on residents to think carefully before being tempted to get behind the wheel.
Manjinder Kang, of motoring defence solicitors Kang and Co in the city centre, is warning that there could be an unintentional increase in drink driving offences as rules relax and people are able to return to hospitality venues from April 12.
It follows statistics from a Freedom of Interest (FOI) request which showed only a 39% reduction in drink driving offences in the West Midlands during lockdown from March to December last year, when people were ordered to stay at home due to the pandemic, compared with the same period in 2019.
Manjinder, who has represented a number of cases across the country during the pandemic, said he believes the stress of lockdown and job insecurities due to COVID-19 unfortunately saw drink driving cases remain high despite a drastic reduction in the number of vehicles on the road.
Talking of his experience a father-of-two, who is one of a number of people Manjinder has represented recently, says a momentary lapse in judgement had devastating consequences for his family last year during the pandemic and is something he would never do again after being caught drink driving at work.
Originally from the West Midlands the man, who wished to remain anonymous but wanted to raise awareness of the dangers of drink driving, works as a restaurant manager in Peterborough and was caught drink driving after having a drink at work following a stressful day.
The father-of-two was working double shifts and under immense pressure due to rolling lockdowns and staff shortages around COVID-19. He decided to have a glass of wine on his break to unwind while he ate his meal and before he knew it had finished the bottle. He then realised that his car needed to be moved or would get locked in the carpark.
As he moved the vehicle to street parking he was stopped by police and found to be over the limit. “It was the first and definitely the last time I will ever do anything like that,” he said. “For the first few months I couldn’t sleep. I felt ashamed and embarrassed and it has put a lot of pressure on my wife as I now can’t help with school runs or shopping and have to rely on the train to commute between Cardiff and Peterborough.”
Completing a drink driving awareness course, he has been banned from driving for 12 months and had to spend 80 hours making face masks as community service.
“I learnt my lesson the hard way and I just hope I can help make people realise it isn’t worth it and it is better not to take that chance at all,” he said.
In England the drink drive alcohol limit for drivers is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood; 107mg of alcohol per 100ml of urine or 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100ml of breath.
Motoring defence expert Manjinder said: “Many people aren’t aware of the severity of the penalty that comes with drink-driving or even the fact that you can still be over the limit the next day even after moderate alcohol consumption. It is sometimes a momentary decision that has ongoing consequences.
“If you plead guilty, or are found guilty of drink driving following a trial, the minimum sentence a court can impose is a driving ban of 12 months.”
Talking about sentencing guidelines Manjinder points out that; “Depending on the alcohol reading and any aggravating circumstances the driving ban can also go up to 36 months or even a 6 month prison sentence for a first offence.
“If you have a previous drink driving conviction within the last 10 years, the minimum driving ban a court will impose rises to between 36 and 60 months and again depending on the circumstances you risk a prison sentence as well.
“Any driving ban can also be accompanied by a fine and community service.”Manjinder Kang – motoring defence solicitor – Kang and Co
Talking about his experience the restaurant manager said: “The pandemic has put huge pressures on individuals and families and I can understand people wanting to unwind. However, that decision made a bad day even worse and has had lasting consequences for me and my family. So, I hope others don’t chose to make the same mistake.”
FOI figures from West Midlands Police show there were 1908 drink driving offences in the West Midlands Police area between March 2020 and December 2020 compared to 3134 for the same period in 2019.
It showed a reduction of 1226 offences during the national lockdown period when people were encouraged not to travel and hospitality industries were closed for large periods of time.
More information on drink driving and the sentencing guidelines followed by courts is available at www.kangandco.co.uk