Jeremy Clarkson

jeremy Clarkson

Clarkson on: drink-driving

How very heartening it is to see that the Government is to step up its fight against the Bubonic Plague. Even though they admit that it was wiped out by the Great Fire in 1666, they still feel that more funds and more hospitals are needed to combat this dreadful disease.

It's also good to note that, at last, they are to prevent the Royal Navy from using press gangs to recruit new sailors. "They have offices in most town's high streets and I don't know why they won't use them," said a spokesman last week. Other recent announcements from Whitehall couldn't have come a moment too soon. Kings will no longer be allowed to behead people they don't like anyone they don't like very much, Wessex is to get its own legislature and the campaign against drink-driving is to be moved up a gear. What?

There is now lamb chop all over my television because there I was, eating supper, when the Roads Minister, Robert Key - who looks like he's seen rather too many lamb chops in his time - came on the news to talk about his war on people who drink and drive. All seven of them.

In 1982, 43,341 people were breathalysed and 31.1 per cent of them were over the limit. Something needed to be done, and something was. In 1992, 108,856 people were breathalysed and under eight per cent were found to be positive. In other words, the Government has won its battle. But Mr Key says 610 people died in drink-related accidents last year and that his fight goes on.

Well, my dear chap, most of those were wobbly pedestrians who fell in front of sober drivers and, short of adopting a Moslem attitude to drink, you aren't going to do much about that sort of thing, are you?

"At night, the police tend to stop youngsters in hot hatchbacks rather than rosy-cheeked farmers in Jags"

Apparently, yes. In America, dinner party hosts are being sued by their friends for failing to provide soft drinks and, while that is unlikely to catch on here, Mr Key does ask that we encourage sobriety when we have people round. Now look, I spend most of my time these days sitting around dinner tables not being allowed to smoke or eat meat - and now Key says that I can't have a glass of wine either. Bet he never bans food.

His next point is that young people often find it difficult to say no to a drink because of social pressure. The last time someone was this wrong, he was called Neville Chamberlain and he had a piece of paper in his hand.

It is, in fact, old people who are far and away the worst offenders. And the reason they get away with it is because, at night, the police tend to stop youngsters in hot hatchbacks rather than rosy-cheeked farmers in Jags.

Key has proved that he is not in the real world and that he should be fed to the lions. But he has yet more. It seems he wants to lower the legal limit, arguing that one pint affects a person's ability to drive.

Sure does, fatty, but so does being old. A 17-year-old with one pint in his triangular torso has faster reactions than a sober pensioner, so why not ban old people from driving? Or people with a cold, or those who need to go to the loo, because I sure as hell can't concentrate when I'm bursting for a pee and you haven't provided any service stations. And anyway, what do you lower the legal limit to? Nought. And when does someone have no alcohol in the blood? Five hours after a pint? Five days? No-one would ever dare drive again.

We've had a long line of idiots in the Transport Ministry but this one tops the lot. And weighs the most as well.


Jeremy Clarkson, Column

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