The curious case of Philip Hammond and the drunk driver who destroyed the 2012 Olympic transport official’s garage

From the West Sussex County Times, 28th July, we have a report of an “accident” in Horsham –

A late-night trip for a takeaway ended with a drink driver crashing into a garage, a court heard. Amar Jogia, 24, of Oakhill Road, Horsham, pleaded guilty to drink driving when he appeared at Crawley Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday. The court heard that he crashed into a garage in Comptons Lane around 12:30 am on July 12. Prosecutor Richard Lynn told magistrates: “He told police in interview that he had gone out drinking with some friends and returned to his address about 9:30 in the evening and carried on drinking .” Later that night, he said, Jogia got into his Honda Civic and drove, getting as far as Comptons Lane. He then lost control of that vehicle, which then broke through the boundary wall of a residential property and struck the garage.” Mr Lynn said the garage was “virtually demolished” and could cost more than £25,000 to rebuild, although insurers will cover the cost. Jogia went home and called the police to tell them what had happened, and a breath alcohol test showed he was over the drink drive limit. “The breath reading was 79mcg of alcohol, more than twice the legal limit,” said Mr Lynn, “and the breath reading was taken some time after this incident.”

Geoff Wise, representing Jogia, said he had been drinking with colleagues after work and had had ‘nothing substantial’ to eat all day. “At 12:30 am or thereabouts, he decided to step out for a takeaway. The road was slippery and wet, he misread the corner quite significantly and this road traffic accident occurred.”

It is quite obvious that the “slipperiness of the road” played absolutely no role in this “accident”, and that any “misreading” of the corner, however “significant” – or indeed, control of the vehicle “being lost” – was entirely due to the driver being completely bladdered.

Further details come from the owner of the house, Philip Ayerst, who happens to be coordinating London transport for the 2012 Olympics (I’ll leave the obvious “shambolic car crash” jokes to you) –

“At about 1am I was awoken by a screeching of brakes and a loud bang. The car hit the kerb and a lamp post, went through a garden wall and crashed into the garage. When I looked out of the window, there was a young male. But by the time I got out he had legged it.

Mr Ayerst is clearly a forbearing man, because he is now – according to subsequent reports in the local press – on good terms with the man who destroyed his garage, and could, with a slightly different trajectory, have seriously injured or killed him. Mr Jogia has at least had the good grace to pay Mr Ayerst a visit, and apologize.

From the same 28th July edition of the paper, we also have these two stories –

A Horsham man was banned from driving by Crawley Magistrates’ Court on Monday. Production team leader Brian Dempsey, aged 46, of Ayshe Court Drive, was disqualified for 12 months and fined £380 with £85 costs after pleading guilty to driving with excess alcohol on June 8. Prosecutor Richard Lynn said Dempsey had failed a breath test after being stopped by police while driving his Audi in Greenway, Horsham, at 11 pm. He was later found to have an alcohol level in blood of 90mcg – the legal limit being 80mcg. Dempsey told the court: “I was very silly. I drank and found myself over the limit.

Also –

A young motorcyclist stopped by police in Pound Lane, Mannings Heath, was found to be over the drink-drive limit, a court heard. Samuel Skippins, aged 21, of Church Close, Lower Beeding, was fined £120 with £85 costs and disqualified for 12 months at Crawley Magistrates’ Court on Monday after pleading guilty to driving with excess alcohol on July 11. Test revealed he had an alcohol level of 55mcg in breath, the legal limit being 35mcg. Skippins told the court: “I was stupid. I won’t do it again.”

Crawley Magistrates’ Court has been rather busy of late.

It is plainly nothing more than good fortune that these three motorists’ “silliness” has resulted in only a smashed garage, and not serious injury or death for either the motorists themselves or innocent bystanders, despite being, in the worst case, ‘only’ twice over the legal limit. I mention this because we should remember that back in March, our esteemed transport secretary, Philip Hammond, decided that there was no need for a lower drink drive limit

[Mr Hammond] said that while drink-driving deaths had fallen by more than 75% since 1979, the government still needed to protect law-abiding road users by taking “tough action against the small minority of drivers who flagrantly ignore the limit”. The decision not to lower the blood-alcohol limit, he added, had partly been informed by the fact that 40% of drink-drivers caught by police are two and a half times the limit, meaning tougher limits would have little impact.

This logic, of course, ignores the fact that the remaining 60% of drunk drivers caught by the police – like the three above – are still a serious danger to the other members of the public, despite being ‘only’ less than two and a half times the limit; it further ignores the fact that a lower limit would have the serious advantage of discouraging a great deal the kind of arm-chancing drink driving that it is going on, like that exhibited by the three individuals caught in Horsham. Presumably these gentlemen felt that, although they were drunk, they were ‘okay to drive’, or were under the limit.

Unfortunately Mr Hammond has chosen to ignore the evidence of Sir Peter North’s independent review, which suggests that it is precisely these kind of garage-destroying drivers who would, or at least might, be discouraged by a lower limit. It notes that

even if the direct effect of a lower limit were to be confined to drivers who currently drive with a BAC between 10 mg/100 ml and 100 mg/100 ml (which may include drivers who intended to keep within the 80 mg/100 ml limit but failed to properly estimate their BAC and who can reasonably be expected to try to keep within a 50 mg/100 ml limit) as assumed in Professor Allsop’s estimate, this group of drivers accounts for 34% of all deaths amongst drivers with BACs over 10 mg/100 ml and is far from insignificant. The potential to influence about a third of the number of these driver fatalities by lowering the current BAC limit to 50 mg/100 ml is very persuasive, more so when one also considers the number of passengers, pedestrians and other road users killed or injured which, it could be reasonably considered, would benefit from the change in driver behaviour.

and further that

The estimates of the potential for a lower limit of 50 mg/100 ml to save lives vary. On the one hand, Professor Richard Allsop estimates, with conservative assumptions, that 43 lives could be saved in Great Britain annually, 127 NICE on the other hand makes more ambitious estimates, based on the experience of research conducted in Europe and in Australia. NICE applies their model to all road traffic casualties in England and Wales rather than just those reported as drink drive-related. Based on the Albalate study of European countries, although without a defined time horizon, 77 – 168 lives could be saved each year in England and Wales whereas, based on the Australian experience, 144 lives could be saved after the first year in England and Wales, progressively increasing by the 6th year to a total of up to 303 deaths avoided.

But saving hundreds of lives by introducing a marginally lower drink drive limit, one that would bring us into line with the rest of Europe, would evidently be part of a continuing War On The Motorist – the recommendations have ended up in the dustbin.

This entry was posted in Car dependence, Dangerous driving, Drink driving, Driving ban, Road safety. Bookmark the permalink.

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