The shame of drink-driving

The Christmas anti-drink drive campaign is in full swing, but there will always be those who think they can get away with it. Beyond the points, the driving ban and the criminal record, how do those caught handle the shame?

Another Christmas, another warning about getting behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol.

The theme of the 2007 campaign is that a conviction can ruin a driver's life. "That pint could come between you and Christmas" is the slogan.

The criminal record and driving ban are automatic and for those who rely on their cars that can be punishment enough. But what about the stigma and the shame?

Claire, a 27-year-old care co-ordinator from Torquay in Devon, found that being convicted even affected her relationship with her mother.

"She made me feel really, really bad. She didn't want to see me and shut the door in my face and told me to go away. That was the worst feeling ever."

Claire, which is not her real name, says the incident that changed her life came at the end of a "rubbish" day at work last year, close to the anniversary of her grandmother's death.

She began drinking a bottle of wine at home and then went into town to continue drinking, but on the way she hit a parked car, failed a breath test and spent a night in a police cell.

"That was lonely and horrendous. You feel very bad about yourself," she says.


"It gives you time to think things over and how you could have killed someone. You feel embarrassed because you don't think you could ever end up in a cell."

She was given a £300 fine and a 16-month driving ban. The ban was reduced to a year because she signed up for a course with the Devon Driving Course run by Devon County Council, which aims to educate drink-drivers about their crime.

The court case meant she had to tell her parents the truth and endure her mother's cold shoulder, having previously told her the accident had not been her fault.

"I don't want people to make the same mistakes as I did. People's silence and the looks on their faces says it all. It makes you never want to do anything so stupid again."

She learnt many things from the £145 course but among them was the fact her shame, criminal record and costs could have been avoided had she paid £20 for a taxi.

While younger people like Claire have grown up bombarded by campaigns warning of the dangers, the middle-aged experienced no such media crusade in their 20s.

Falklands War veteran Roger Fenton, 55, from Cornwall, was attending a reunion around the time of the conflict's 25th anniversary in May when he gave a friend a lift home.

Career 'over'

He was stopped by the police for not having his lights on and - being a salesman - he feared his career could be over when he was banned for a year.

"I had been with the company for 23 years so luckily they showed me similar loyalty and hired someone as a chauffeur," he says.

"But my boss said he wasn't surprised this had happened because he'd noticed how heavily I'd been drinking, and my wife said the same."

The conviction, and the driving course that followed, provided a wake-up about the quantities he was drinking.

"I was pretty disappointed with myself. There's a stigma attached to drink driving. I'm the oldest person at my work place, and I'm the idiot."

source: BBC News