Road Safety GB North East (RSGB NE) has been joined by police, fire and Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough football clubs to urge people not to get behind the wheel after drink or drugs during the football championships, which start on Friday.
Drink and drug driving typically increases during major sporting tournaments as people gather to watch the games over drinks. During Euro 2016, there was an increase in drink and drug driving injuries in the region, both on the day of and the day after England’s matches. On these days, drink/drug drive injuries increased from 6% to 8% of all injuries, and those resulting in death or serious injury rose from 8% to 19%.
However, with the pandemic impacting on people’s ability to party during the past 15 months, coupled with many of the games taking place on home soil at Wembley, the temptation to set up a party atmosphere – and increase alcohol consumption – is likely to be high. England’s first game of the tournament is on Sunday when they take on Croatia.
Between 2016 and 2020, there were 1,476 people injured in the north east in collisions involving a suspected impaired driver. Some 343 of those people were seriously injured and 29 were killed.
Last year alone, eight people died on the region’s roads in collisions involving drivers impaired by drink and drugs – the highest rate since 2014. This is despite traffic levels during the various lockdowns and the pandemic being much lower than usual.
Peter Slater, from Road Safety GB NE, which is made up of local authority road safety teams from across the region, supported by the emergency services, said: “We know people are looking forward to the Euros and have lots of plans to meet up with friends and family to watch the games,” said Peter.
“It’s been a long time coming and we don’t want to spoil the fun, but we’re asking people to be sensible. If you know you’re going to be drinking, plan your transport home beforehand, or be the designated driver. If you’re driving, stick to soft drinks. Ask yourself, could you live with it if you hurt or killed someone?
“And look out for each other. If you know someone has been drinking, don’t let them drive. Speak up – it could save a life.”
Superintendent Sam Rennison, of Northumbria Police, said officers would be taking robust action against anyone driving impaired this summer.
“We know that more people are likely to be enjoying a drink as they watch the drama of the Euros unfold,” she said.
“But our message to fans is a simple one – don’t get behind the wheel of a car when you’ve been drinking or using drugs.
“Your reaction time slows down and it’s more difficult to focus on the road and drive in a safe manner. Road traffic collisions tear families apart and it’s crucial that people are aware of the potential consequences of driving over the limit prior to getting behind the wheel.”
Sunderland AFC Manager Lee Johnson said the club was glad to back the campaign. He said: “We’re all looking forward to Euro 2020 and like all football supporters, I’m hoping that England give us plenty to cheer about.
“If you’re having a few drinks while watching the games, please remember to leave the car at home, and think about whether you’re still over the limit the following day.”
Young people are most at risk of being involved in drink/drug driving collisions, with 17 to 34-year-olds accounting for 52% of suspected drink drivers and 53% of casualties.
A Newcastle United FC spokesperson said: “We fully support Road Safety GB North East’s campaign, which is dedicated to reducing the number of casualties and fatalities on roads across our region this summer.
“For anyone heading out to watch the Euros and planning to have a drink, we join them in urging you to leave your car at home. Stay safe, keep others safe and help to make it a memorable tournament for all the right reasons.”
Cllr Kevin Johnston, Sunderland City Council’s Cabinet Member for Dynamic City, said: “As a council we are proud to be supporting this campaign to ensure unsafe road-use doesn’t ruin anyone’s enjoyment of the Euros. We know everyone is keen to enjoy the football, but nobody wants to put others in danger – plan ahead and leave the car at home.”
Globally, road traffic crashes are one of the leading causes of death for people aged between 15 and 29. Inexperience, speeding, distraction, drink/drug driving and failing to wear a seatbelt are behind many serious injuries and deaths of young people on the roads.
10 June 2021