Tuesday 20 August 2013

More hours, fewer drinks

There’s some possibly surprising news that the extended opening hours following the 2003 Licensing Act have actually led to a reduction in drink-drive casualties amongst younger people, particularly at weekends. At first sight this may seem counter-intuitive, and before the legislation was implemented there were widespread predictions from an unholy alliance of the anti-drink and anti-car lobbies (between whom there is a substantial overlap) that it would lead to an explosion in drink-driving, especially as it would mean pubs routinely staying open after public transport had stopped running.

The mechanism behind this isn’t immediately obvious, but it seems in general terms that the relaxation of closing times has led to a less frantic and pressured approach to drinking and encouraged people to pace themselves more. It could also mean that we’re not putting all the drink-drivers on the road at the same time so they’re less likely to crash into each other, but I don’t really think it quite works like that. One very noticeable effect is that staggered closing times have removed the previous spike in demand for taxis at around 11.30, which might make people more willing to trust to that form of transport.

While there may be recent research that I’m not aware of, I get the impression that the motivations leading people to become drink-drive offenders are not very well understood and this hinders the development of official policies to combat it. The traditional stereotype of middle-aged, middle-class blokes knocking it back in country pubs and golf clubs was never more than a small part of the problem and becomes less and less relevant as the years go by.


  1. It could also be that correlation doesn't indicate causality, and it is a coincidence.

  2. Indeedy, CL. I’d be interested to know by what rate drink-driving fatalities were decreasing (or otherwise, as the case may be) in the few years before the change to licensing hours came in.

  3. It's not specifically drink-driving accidents though, just accidents. Looks like perfect common sense to me, if there's not the big rush at 11pm to get somewhere else, of course accidents will decline.

    If we're talking about solely drink-driving, the easier availability of taxis due to staggering of need is another obvious reason why people tempted to drink drive wouldn't necessarily do so where they might have before.

    It all reminded me of the seat belt claims in 1983. The large drop in accidents and fatalities that year was entirely put down to seat belt legislation. Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of reductions were between 11pm and 4am ... in the same year that evidential breath testing was introduced. RoSPA are still claiming the lives saved as seat belt success instead of something entirely different.


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