Fleet Managers dealing with Drink & Drug Driving issues at Christmas

Fleet Managers dealing with Drink & Drug Driving issues at Christmas

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Fleet Managers dealing with Drink & Drug Driving issues at Christmas

Why raising awareness with your drivers could save you a post-christmas headache

The festive season sees a spike in drink and drug driving related convictions. We spoke to Simon Morton of award-winning solicitors Morton’s Solicitors in Stockport about the perils of drink/drug driving – and the implications when that person is a driver as part of a fleet.

“If I said – “picture someone being caught for drink/drug driving offences”, most people often picture a scene of late at night and it’s often a young male leaving a pub or a club and getting pulled over. This however isn’t always the case – especially at this time of year.” 

Simon Morton’s firm – Morton’s Solicitors deal daily at this time of year with people caught drink and/or drug driving. 

The reasons are pretty obvious. The festive season sees more social gatherings, Christmas parties (when allowed) and other celebrations, all of which make drink and drug-driving offences more likely.

However, it is isn’t on the night that is just the issue. Simon claims that it is actually the ‘morning after’ where many drivers get caught out – and it is the mornings that are a time that many police forces will specifically target.

The morning after the night before

“Believe it or not, one of the busiest times for drink/drug driving offences are in the mornings – and not just the early hours. At this time of year many people make the decision to drive to work – or even drive as part of their work – whilst still under the influence of drinks/drugs they consumed the previous evening.” Simon reveals.

Some drivers who are caught were aware of their condition and risked it anyway, but Simon explains that this isn’t always the case.

“In many cases, the driver is unaware they are still over the legal limit for drink-driving – or are unaware of how long any drugs taken may stay in their system.”

Unfortunately, a lack of awareness isn’t a defence.

“All too often we are told that “I only had a few drinks” or even “I had a shower and a coffee and thought I’d be ok”. The fact is, being unaware doesn’t wash when it comes to the law – and for any drivers out there, the impact of a drink or drug-driving charge can have far-reaching implications – and a knock-on effect for their employers.” 

What are the implications of a drink/drug driving conviction?

“Any conviction for drink and/or drug driving carries serious implications for anyone convicted. There is often a significant fine – but more importantly the offences carry a mandatory driving ban of at least 12 months, and can carry a prison sentence too. And of course, there is the potential risk to life.”

how does this impact on fleet managers and businesses reliant on ITs drivers?

“If your business relies on its drivers then the last thing you want to be doing is losing staff this way – particularly at this time of year which, for some businesses, can be heavily dependent on the availability of their drivers. It can be difficult enough having to deal with other issues, such as illness, and of course at the moment, Covid.” 

Simon continues. “The thing is, drink/drug driving is utterly avoidable. Ultimately, the responsibility is completely on any driver to make sure they are within the limits to drive – but by fleet managers promoting a ‘none for the road’ message in line with the police forces, it can help re-inforce to the drivers their responsibility both to themselves but also to other road users.”

How does someone know if it is safe to drive the morning after?

“Whether a person is within the drink-drive limit the following morning depends on many factors. The size of the person, the amount consumed and the amount of time that has passed since the last drink.”

This makes it a judgement call.

“In reality – unless you can accurately test yourself before you drive – you really have no way of knowing. Therefore, driving a car or van after having had alcohol the night before is taking a risk. The only guaranteed way it isn’t a risk is by not drinking alcohol or taking drugs the night previously.” 

MYTHBUSTING : Can the process of getting rid of alcohol from the system be sped up?

There are many things that people will try to “speed up” getting rid of alcohol from their system – do any of them work?

“In a word, No. People might have heard that coffee, or a cold shower, or drinking lots of water helps speed things up, but whilst you might “feel” a bit better, the alcohol leaves your system at the same rate – which again depends on those factors I mentioned. Again, for fleet managers, making drivers aware of this can help them re-inforce the message that ‘none for the road’ really is the only risk-free option.”

As for drugs driving – again, the message from fleet managers really should be about reminding it’s drivers of their responsibilities.

“Drugs stay in the system even longer and different drugs stick around for different lengths of time. Really whilst it shouldn’t need fleet managers to remind their drivers about drug-taking and their responsibilities around this, the number of drivers we deal with at this time of year who are caught, would suggest that a reminder that all drug-taking should be avoided certainly wouldn’t hurt.”

What if someone is caught drink/drug driving?

Simon explains that getting legal representation at the earliest opportunity is crucial to getting the best defence in place.

“The first thing is that being taken into a police station for many people can be very daunting. It is often at this point where the driver is confused, scared, angry, worried and often without legal representation, anything said at this point can leave defence options severly limited. Police Station Representation is free of charge and should be sought immediately.”

It cannot be stated enough that defending a drink/drug driving charge is quite difficult, and it is a serious offence which could lead to a mandatory ban and even a custodial sentence. So can anything be done?

“In some cases, there are certain legal defences available, and we are happy to discuss these with anyone who is charged. When a legal defence is not possible, then we will work hard to mitigate the sentence and to help get the defendents life back on track.” 

Morton’s Solicitors are award-winning solicitors who deal with motoring offences and are on-hand with 24 hour police station representation. If you would like to find out more about their motoring conviction defence services, click on the button below.

 

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The Laws Around The Use of Mobile Devices Whilst Driving

The Laws Around The Use of Mobile Devices Whilst Driving

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The Laws Around The Use of Mobile Devices Whilst Driving

The Laws Surrounding The Use Of Mobile Devices Whilst Driving Have Been Reviewed – What Does This Mean For Your Drivers?

An announcement from the Department for Transport says that the government will be strengthening road traffic laws to make it illegal to use a mobile phone in most circumstances while driving.

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, made the announcement and said the government aimed to make it easier to prosecute those using their phone while driving. This is due to the number of deaths and injuries that have occurred while phones are being used in ways not currently clearly outlined as prohibited under law.

Simon Morton, of award-winning criminal law solicitors Morton’s Solicitors, in Stockport, Cheshire, explains what the current law is, and how these changes could catch out many drivers. 

What is the Current Law?

It is currently illegal to use a mobile phone while driving; sending a text or making/taking a call could result in prosecution.

The law comes under a failure to keep proper control of a vehicle by using a hand-held mobile phone or other hand-held interactive communication device.

The offence is committed when a driver holds the phone and uses it for an interactive communication function such as a text or call.

The penalty for using a mobile phone in these circumstances is six penalty points and either a fine or fixed penalty.

What was the consultation and why was it called?

The change follows a public consultation last year in which the government says 81% of people supported the change.

The current law covers the situation where a phone or device is being used for an interactive communication function, so it would not cover, for example, taking a photo or video whilst in control of a vehicle.

The intent behind the consultation was to broaden the offence to cover the standalone use of a phone as well as interactive communication.

What are the proposed changes?

The new law will make it unlawful to use a phone for standalone functions. This will include searching for music, taking photos or videos, and playing games.

In order to assist understanding of the changes, there will be alterations made to the Highway Code, and government guidance will be expanded upon.

The list of prohibited functions that will appear in the revised legislation is said to be non-exhaustive; instead, it is a comprehensive guide to the possible scope of the offence.

The law will cover not just phones but all devices capable of interactive communication, whether or not that capability is enabled at the time of use.

Are there any exceptions?

There will be exceptions to the use of devices so that contactless payment may be used where goods are to be received immediately, such as at a drive through.

The addition of the words “goods to be received immediately” means that a driver cannot simply make an internet payment at the wheel. The exception applies to contactless payment made with a card reader while stationary (e.g. paying for a toll-road at the terminals on that toll-road), not general internet payments (e.g. sat in traffic and remembering to pay a bill).

Drivers will still be able to use a device if it is hands-free; this would include using it as a sat-nav if secured in a cradle.

A cautionary note though to any driver using a device, even under an exception. Every effort should be made to ensure that the driver has proper control of the vehicle; otherwise a separate offence may be committed.

Can a phone be used whilst stationary at traffic lights?

Being stationary in traffic, at traffic lights or in a traffic jam still counts as driving, so the use of a device in those circumstances would still be an offence, “except in very limited circumstances”. The announcement does not set out those circumstances, but they are likely to include emergency use.

Changes to the Highway Code 

The Code will be revised to provide clarity and eliminate misunderstandings. Any proposed changes will be put before Parliament for agreement.

What is the penalty for the offence?

The offence could be dealt with by way of a £200 fixed penalty and six penalty points, or by way of a fine and points if dealt with at court. 

Got a Question? – Contact Morton’s Solicitors

If you have any questions in relation to this article or any other motoring offences, you can contact Morton’s Solicitors on 0161 477 1121 or visit their website by clicking the button below.

 

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