THIS Christmas, the parents of a drink-drive victim are warning of the devastating impact of driving under the influence of alcohol, as part of Lancashire Constabulary’s annual campaign.
Janet Alston and her husband Andrew have released a statement detailing the devastating effect drink-driving has had on their lives after their 18-year-old son Matthew Alston, from Simonstone, was killed in August 2010 when he drove to a friend’s house still unknowingly drunk the morning after a night out.
The collision happened on the A671 Whalley Road when Matthew’s black Vauxhall Corsa, which was heading towards Portfield Bar, lost control on a bend and collided with a silver Seat Toledo travelling on the opposite carriageway.
Matthew died at the scene as a result of multiple injuries.
The occupants of the other vehicle – a 38-year-old woman and her 49-year-old male passenger – both off-duty road policing officers, were cut free from their car by fire-fighters. Both went to hospital and although the passenger was released with minor injuries, the driver sustained long-term injuries.
An inquest held at Blackburn in November 2010 recorded a verdict of accidental death. Matthew was double the drink-drive limit.
He had hosted a party the previous night at his parents’ house and went to bed in the early hours, but got up at 7 a.m. He left in his car without telling anyone where he was going and the accident happened half-a-mile away from his parents’address.
Janet and Andrew Alston said: “Matthew died as a result of driving the ‘morning after’ he had been out drinking alcohol with friends. He drove without realising the amount of alcohol still in his body. Later we discovered he had twice the legal drink drive limit still in his system.
“On that day, when we were told Matt had died, we were just in shock; in a daze. Andrew and myself were away and were told over the phone by a police officer. It was devastating. Matt was just a normal lad, we are a normal family; surely it wouldn’t happen to us, but it has.
“Matt had a massive amount of friends. He was so cheeky; always laughing and joking. That’s something we’ll never have again.”
The annual festive crackdown will also see police officers across the county breathalyse and drugs test thousands of drivers around the clock at high-profile checkpoints.
This year’s campaign will specifically target drink and or drug drivers under 25 and those who drive the morning after a night drinking.
During the 2011 festive campaign, the failure rate amongst under 25s was 1.7% compared to 1.2 % for the over 25 category.
Lancashire Police are working with Lancashire County Council’s road safety team to raise awareness of the issues involved with drink and drug driving.
They met at Edge Hill University on Friday where Matthew’s mangled car will be on display to highlighting the dangers of drink-driving.
Matthew’s parents added: “This ‘Morning After’ campaign highlights the true effects of drinking and driving.
“Over 10,000 young people in Lancashire have seen the devastation of Matt’s car and have expressed genuine shock at the reality of how easily something like this can happen.
“Matt and his friends would always use taxis for nights out, but didn’t always think about the morning after. Please, just stop a second and think. You could still be over the limit. That could have a devastating consequence.
“Too many young drivers are getting behind the wheel when they still have alcohol in their system.
“As Matt’s parents we would urge you to really think about the morning after. Are you really sure you’re fit to drive? It’s not worth the risk so don’t even chance it.”
Superintendent Richard Morgan from Lancashire Police said: “Last December over 13,000 drivers from across Lancashire were tested during the month-long campaign, with just 168, or 1.3%, of people testing positive or refusing to provide a specimen. This compares to 2% for the 2010 campaign and 2.2% for the 2009 campaign so the message is getting through.
“However, last year 280 people were killed across the country in accidents where the driver was over the limit. If you don’t drink and drive this Christmas you reduce the risk of killing an innocent person, or yourself. It is really that simple.
“This year we are very grateful for the support of two parents who continue to grieve for their son Matthew who was killed in a collision after drink-driving. They are trying to save someone else from the pain they have endured.
“I would like people to listen to their words and consider the consequences of drinking and driving. Like Matthew, there are some drivers who think they are obeying the law but are in fact breaking it by getting into their cars the morning after a night of drinking.
“People may be surprised to hear that last year between the hours of 6 a.m. and 11 a.m. nationally more than 400 people failed breath tests (or refused to provide a specimen), which is more than those caught for the hour before or after midnight.
“Drivers need to be aware that regardless of the time of day they are caught, whether they are going to work or taking children to school, they will face the same penalties as someone who has chosen to drink heavily in a pub and driven at night.
“If you drive at twice the legal alcohol limit you are at least 30 times more likely to cause a road crash than a driver who hasn’t been drinking, potentially resulting in serious injury or death.
“We will be working throughout the festive period to keep the public safe and want people to enjoy the festive season but to remember the consequences of driving whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs.”
A hard-hitting television advert highlighting the consequences of drink driving will also be shown throughout December as part of the Department for Transport’s THINK! Christmas drink drive campaign.
If you would like to report someone who you suspect of driving whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs, contact the police on 101.