Drink driving

'If it saves the life of one child'. Whenever I hear that phrase from the mouth of a politician, I know I am listening to someone of mediocrity and vacuous sentimentality. Always. It is an abnegation of the duty of power which is about making balanced choices; where you have to weigh up the pros and cons and accept that there will be a bad outcome for some in any human activity.

A classic case are the drink driving laws. In an ideal world, where drink was not the mortar of most people's social lives, taxis were cheap and available or everyone socialised within walking distance, then zero tolerance might be an acceptable option. But of course we don't live in that world. The balanced choice is that a pint of beer, or the equivalent slightly raises the risk to the lives of a few children - but weighs that against the needs and desires of the other sixty million odd people that live in the UK. Taken to its logical conclusion, the 'if it saves the life of one child' argument would rid the roads of all cars.

I read somewhere, some time ago, an interesting take on the 'slaughter on our roads' headline. These are rough figures, from memory, which I have tried to check online - without success, which perhaps is not surprising as most of the statistics seem to come from total abstinence pressure groups. Apparently, on average, around 250 people a year die in drink-driving accidents. Of these half were drunk drivers who killed themselves. Of the remainder half were drunk pedestrians killed by sober drivers but which are classified as drink driving deaths. Which leaves about 60 people, out of a population of sixty million, who were killed by drunk drivers - which apparently is about the same as are killed each year in police car-chases. This takes no account, of course, of those injured and maimed. But equally, it doesn't tell us how many of those drunk drivers were serial offenders many times over the limit as opposed to someone just over on 'the morning after.' Serial offenders aren't going to take notice of any limit.

Two conclusions. Look hard at any statistics - and look even harder, and then away, from any politician who tells you it's not worth the life of one child.

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