On this day in history : 10th September 1897 – George Smith, a 25-year-old London taxi driver, is the first person to be charged with the offence of drink driving….

On Friday the 10th of September at 12.45am George had crashed his cab into a building in New Bond Street…. He pleaded guilty and admitted to having consumed 2 or 3 glasses of beer…. He was fined £1….

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Example of an electric car, photo from 1895 – This particular car was built by Thomas Parker – and would have been similar to the one George Smith was driving – Public domain

Drink driving laws did not actually come into force in the UK until 1967…. The Road Traffic Act of 1960 made it an offence to drive or attempt to drive, or be in charge of a motor vehicle on the road or in a public place, whilst under the influence – but no legal drink-driving limit was set….

In 1967 the Breathalyser was introduced – a way of testing the blood alcohol level…. William Ducie and Tom Parry Jones developed an electronic device – and the Road Safety Act 1967 introduced the first legal maximum blood alcohol level for those behind the wheel…. In 1981 the Transport Act set this at 35 micro grams of alcohol per 100ml of breath – but this was not officially implemented until 1983…. In 1991 it became a compulsory prison sentence if causing a death by driving whilst under the influence….

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Image : Pixabay

It has been over 50 years since the drink-driving alcohol limit was introduced…. Many of us believe a no alcohol policy if behind the wheel is preferable…. In 2017 around 1,400 people were killed or injured due to drivers being over the limit…. Despite the drink-driving campaign over 70,000 drunk drivers are caught every year…. How many more go undetected…?

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Photo credit : West Midlands Police via Flickr

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