Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson

Clarkson on: drinking

At home, I have a pair of Sega Rally arcade machines on which two people can race a Lancia Delta Integrale or a Toyota Celica GT4 on a choice of rally circuits. They were very cutting-edge 10 years ago, and in various Northern airport terminals, I note they still are.

Obviously, because I have them at home and because it costs nothing to have a go, I am very brilliant. I guarantee I could beat you, even if you are eight, or if you actually designed the coded software that allows the true expert to convert their cars from four- to much faster rear-wheel drive. And in case you don't believe me, my top 10 times sit on the memory chip like the grouping on a sharpshooter's target. The top eight are identical. The next two are off by just a thousandth of a second.

Here's the funny thing, though. If I have a go after drinking just one small glass of wine, I can't even get close to my best score. I'm way off, sometimes by as much as two tenths.

It's odd. Drinking one small glass of wine does not make me feel different in any way. I can touch my nose, get all the way through ‘Peter Piper' and balance on one foot easily. Even our fanatically bossy government agrees. But the Sega experiment shows that even a pipette of booze affects, noticeably, the reactions of a fully grown, sixteen-stone man.

After two bottles of wine, and some sloe vodka, I'm all over the place. Once, I was so drunk that I was nearly half a second off the pace. And on another occasion, on the forest stage, I actually fell asleep. And so, you should be in no doubt - especially as this is a BBC website, and the BBC gets criticised for everything these days - I am not for a moment going to suggest that booze doesn't affect our ability to drive. It does. The end.

However, despite this, I have decided that people should be allowed to drive a car even if they are so completely wasted they have lost control of their bowels.

Here's why. We are human beings, which means we are naturally gregarious. We like the company of other people, and we are nervous of loners. We imagine, correctly, that people who enjoy their own company have a large collection of knives and dream of one day walking into a shop and shooting all the customers.

To quench our thirst for company, the world is awash with places where people might gather to be convivial. Pubs, clubs, restaurants, and so on. And because alcohol loosens our inhibitions and our shyness, it is usually served in these places to get us in the mood. A night out with friends. A few drinks. A bit of a laugh. Life simply doesn't get any better.

But then you've got to get home and, sadly, life doesn't get any worse.

Obviously, you cannot use the bus because if you are in a city, you will have absolutely no idea where it's going, and even if you do manage to board something going vaguely in the right direction, someone will be sick on your trousers and then stab you in the heart for complaining.

If you are not in the city, you can wait as long as you like at the bus stop. But nothing will come by till the morning, by which time you will have died from hypothermia. The upshot, then, is that everyone who attempts to use a bus ends up covered in sick and dead, or just dead.

A cab? Again, there's a split. In the city, there are any number of companies who will take you home, provided you don't mind being raped on the way. In the countryside, there are no cabs at all.

“Drinking one small glass of wine does not make me feel different in any way. But the Sega experiment shows that even a pipette of booze affects my reactions” 

Where I live, near a small market town in the Cotswolds, I could ring for a taxi at 11pm tonight and pretty much guarantee it won't arrive until October. By which time, even if I've had a very heavy night on the sauce, I can pretty much guarantee I'll be sober enough to drive.

So, if you don't want to be raped or murdered, the only way of getting home is in your car. But if you do that, you will either hit a tree and be killed, or you will be stopped by the constabulary. You will then lose your licence and your family, who will leave because you have no job and therefore no money.

The upshot is that you can either stay at home and collect knives, or you can go out and not drink. In which case, you will be boring, your friends will soon not want to see you anymore and, pretty soon, you will be alone, in your attic, downloading pictures of dismembered dogs and dreaming of the day when you can run amok with an AK47.

Many years ago, I developed a solution to the problem; in short, it goes like this. If you have been out and you've had some drinks, you are allowed to drive home, but only if you place a green flashing light on the roof of your car.

And here's the clever bit. If you are driving with the light flashing, then you are limited to a top speed of 10mph.

Think about it. Normal sober people will see you weaving down the road toward them, they will clock the light and they will know, whether they are on foot or in a car, that you are drunk and that they should give you a wide berth.

Because you are going so slowly, they will have plenty of time to make the necessary adjustments, and what's more, even if you do hit a bus shelter or a tree, you will cause very little damage.

Thanks, then, to the green-light system, you would get home without being raped or murdered; what's more, the next day, your car would be outside your house, and not 15 miles away outside a country pub.

There is, however, one further feature in my plan. If you are caught drink-driving with no light on the roof, you will be shot, in the head and on the spot by a police executioner. If the government is going to introduce a fair and sensible system for getting you home safely, in your car, the least you can do is play ball. So it's instant death for people who don't.

Likewise, anyone found travelling at more than 10mph with a green light on their roof will have a brown paper bag put over their head and be bludgeoned to a lifeless pulp. If you are sober enough to remember the light and get the key in the ignition, you are sober enough to keep your speed down. There is no excuse.

I believe that if my system were employed, the number of pubs closing down - at the moment, one is shutting for good somewhere in the country every four hours - would be cut dramatically. I also believe more people would be inclined to go out at night, which would make the country a happier, more civilised place. This, in turn, would reduce the chances of there being another Hungerford.

Plainly, then, there are no drawbacks to my idea, but sadly it can never be implemented for three reasons. Firstly, allowing people to do something they were not previously allowed to do is not the government way. Nothing ever gets un-banned. Secondly, with no drink-drive laws, there would be a reduction in fines received by the exchequer. And thirdly, the more people who can be excluded from the roads, the better it is for the government's much-publicised drive to remove the terrifying scourge of carbon dioxide from the upper atmosphere.



Jeremy Clarkson, Column

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