Friday night I stayed at my friends house Paulo and Itch. We took the mark 2 with us, set up the travel cot and put her down so we could eat, drink and watch a terrible Debra Messing movie on the idiot box.
Sadly after my third bottle of decent English ale I got into bed with Em and awoke the mark2 who subsequently spent the next 4 hours screaming and generally being annoying.
At home we would eventually, having exhausted every possible reason for her upset put her back in her room and leave her to exhaust herself, enjoying the relative difference in noise levels in our room next door and the further benefit of a longer lie-in (8 o'clock instead of 7 o'clock) to boot.
Not an option when your in your friends guest room next door to them with a screaming baby, so shift work involved taking her downstairs to let her crawl it off by doing laps on the living room floor.
"Have you had too much to drive Tom? I'd hate to keep our hosts awake with this." Mrs -rat said to me.
"Fortunately not, and having been awake for 3 hours I am likely on the border of 1.5 pints/2 units/ 3 magic-elf-units to manage the trip safely; but do you really want to risk my licence and daughter travelling back when I am exhausted, slightly inebriated and my nerves wracked?"
After 5 long minutes my wife decided against it, took the mark 2 downstairs whilst I collapsed into sweet unconsciousness.
This is striking in the context of the arguement I have just seen fearless leader debate on the question of drink driving on The Big Question, against what can only be called a polite, but hostile and misinformed audience (roughly 44 minutes in).
I have a simple view based sadly on some practical experiences coupled with a basic understanding of chemistry and physiology:
- One accident I have been involved in (as a passenger*) was driving with a friend of a friend when he had just passed his test and bought his first car (a Vauxhall Nova, if your interested) - the reason we crashed into a telegraph pole was not down to drink but to smoking; namely driver trying to light his cigarette whilst taking a bend at 80mph - COMMON SENSE EPIC FAIL.
- Being that I am quite a heavy bastard I can sink several pints and still talk cogently on many subjects, walk in a straight line and play guitar hero surprisingly better than when I'm sober (all my high scores were achieved with little higher cognitive function; perhaps that's why rock stars do it that way). Whilst my brother Buffrat, weighing a fair few stone less than me is just as capable as sinking them- why? Because he has trained his body with exercise and "business drinking" to such an extent that his liver is the size of a canner ham and his muscle frame burns off most of the bi-products. Mrs -rat on the other hand sniffs a white wine spritzer and subsequently faints. Conclusion: varying metabolic rates varies how people respond to alcohol. My next point will explain why I think this is not a reason for a zero alcohol policy.
- The only other accident I have been involved in as a passenger* was when I was 16, driving home with my mum, the boy Buffrat and sister, both driving my mum to distraction...into the back of car in front piling up several others.
- I know of one person at least who (and I have made it very clear to them that I don't condone their actions, insisting I would call the police myself if I caught them) makes it a habit of driving whilst incredibly inebriated...without a licence...having never owned one...and having been banned for several years for drink driving.
It was sad to see that poor women who's son had died at the hands of a drunk driver (possibly one of those of the calibre of my wife it seems, having only drunk just above the limit**) but almost as saddened to hear her campaign for measures that in all likelihood would not help.
If someone is determined to flaunt the law or ignore it at personal and probably others risk, they will flaunt it; there is no way of preventing this. None (look at narcotic use); even as a libertarian I accept that stating that violence against a person, theft of another's property or deprivation of another's liberty (negative liberty/freedoms) is an aspiration, not the reality; one of the reasons why we need the means to bring justice to the victims, and a means of raising the capital so that justice isn't deprived from those least able to afford it.***
The individual in question in point 4 above will continue to drive under a lot of the influence, without a license and a ban from driving (despite never taking a test!) simply because justice has failed; rapists will still rape, but the hope is that they will be brought to justice nonetheless so they can compensate their victims with a reciprocal loss of their own liberty; likewise murderers.
What I see, however, is this old, romantic notion being turned on its head - murderers released from prison to kill again, paedophiles let out with substandard supervision and care to prey on children and dangerous (rarely the same thing as drunk I might add) drivers let off with less than a slap on the wrist whilst families are left to pick up the pieces.
Is this justice? Are we to punish the few able to act responsibly and with due care despite having half a unit more than the law permits? Has adding that law-a-day altered this situation or any other they are put in place to stop/punish from occuring? In some limited capacity maybe, but the environment in which they operate has been changed with the subsequent loss of liberty, the added suspicion and the innocent/guilty maxim being turned on its head.
We need stronger laws, and stronger penalties for breaking those laws, more so than we need new laws to tackle the same problem. Unfortunately it is easier for our politicians in their safe seats and populist entrenchment to be seen to be doing something, anything, than it is for them to assert that the agents they employ to exact justice are properly resourced to carry out the law as it is written.
We live in sad times when no one sees this, when the reaction is to apply yet another plaster on the pile of plasters covering the open wound of our justice system.
* - the only accident I have ever initiated was during winter 08/09, when my hill turned into a black-ice slalom, much to my and my very pregnant wife's surprise; the reason I refuse to drive in the snow now unless I have no choice.
** - my guess was that the culprit for her son's death was severely over the limit for the following reasons: if it was in the 70s then the drink drive limit was considerably higher than now, if it was in the 80s or early 90s then it is likely that the man was arrested, put in the cell for several hours and then given a blood test that returned an "just over the limit result", due to breathalyser technology not really making a full appearance till the early 90s. Either way it is a little fishy that a near sober individual would be driving on the wrong side of the road purely on a pint and a half with no drugs, environmental factors or otherwise. It would also be interesting to hear what happened to him and what he was sentenced to.
*** - in the unlikely event that that pillock from the new-statesman on the Big Questions is reading this, this is the point of libertarianism; an acceptance that people wont respect the axiom of non-aggression or negative liberties and a need, nay, the only reason for the existence, of government; to protect those who cannot protect themselves.