Sunday, March 18, 2012

Naughts and Zeds: Drink Driving

This is the beginning of an on-going series of posts about the interesting differences between American English and British English. Americans say "zero" while Brits say "naught" and the last letter of the alphabet is "zee" in America and "zed" in the UK. Stuff like that. Today's topic is especially relevant for any post-Saint-Patrick's-Day revelers who had too much green beer.

Americans and the English refer to driving while intoxicated with slightly different terminology. In America this is referred to as "drunk driving" while in England they say "drink driving."

The English generally have a much lower tolerance for drinking and driving. As in zero tolerance. The advice we were given was you shouldn't drive if you have any alcohol at all. The advice makes sense, because even if you aren't legally impaired, you still are affected by the alcohol that you drink. You don't have to be drunk for your performance to be impaired. If you are busted, the fine is £5000 and comes with a twelve month driving ban and a criminal record. Check it out at the government web site. Also, they have a video that's quite direct about the consequences.

Americans have more of a "know your limit" attitude towards drinking and driving. If your blood/alcohol content is over a certain level, you are considered "drunk" and can be in serious trouble (British law enforcement also measures the alcohol content of your breath/urine/blood). How much trouble is often dictated by local or state laws, so there's no standard penalty across the United States.

While the "designated driver" (someone who doesn't drink and so is fine behind the wheel) is popular in America, so is our independence. If only one person was in the car, it's hard to have a designated driver and a drinker. Carpooling is an excellent way to pool resources and avoid getting into trouble. Another solution sometimes available is a free taxi ride provided by local government or a non-profit agency.

So if you are in America, drink responsibly and you won't be in trouble for drunk driving; if you are in the United Kingdom, don't drink at all or else you'll be in trouble for drink driving.

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