The Holiday season flew by again this year. It truly is my favourite time of the year. When not frantically cooking or wrapping gifts, I always spend a part of my time feeling a bit homesick. I compensate for this by watching Masterpiece Classics on PBS; although, there are only so many period dramas I can cope with at once.
This is one of the few holidays where I am fairly insistent that some (actually, all) of my English traditions be followed: I roast a big turkey (I have never really liked goose) with all the trimmings and make a sherry trifle and Christmas pudding from scratch. Now, as proud as I am with my homemade Christmas pud, I cannot lie: it could be used as a projectile. For those who may not know, Christmas puddings are a very dense fruit cake laden with copious quantities of alcohol.
I put close to half a pint of brandy in mine and let it soak for over 24 hours before steaming it. Our festive treats are so heavily laced with alcohol that there have been incidents of people eating them and then ending up over the ‘legal limit.’ They then (often unwittingly) drive home and commit the offences of driving under the influence of alcohol, or driving a vehicle on the road when the alcohol in their blood is above the prescribed limit. The penalties for such offences are up to six months imprisonment and/or a fine of up to £5,000 (approximately US$7,000), as well as a ban on driving (a revoked license) for up to two years. I will say that most members of my extended (American) family were safe as they took one look at my Christmas pud (which was simply smashing) and asked me whether it was a chocolate cake (urm … no?). Then, other than a few brave souls who sampled a small amount, they passed on it. Sigh.
So is the drink driving limit so low in England that a simple dessert can push a person over the edge? The “prescribed limit” (commonly referred to as the “legal limit”) for drinking and driving in England is 80mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood (equivalent to 35mg of alcohol in 100ml of breath). When compared to other countries across Europe, the United Kingdom is on the higher side where limits are concerned. Most European countries have limits of 50mg; and some, mostly Eastern European countries, have a zero tolerance policy—0mg.
The limits have been under almost constant review by the government, with the most recent one concluding in November 2010. This review recommended that the limit be dropped to 50mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood, and ultimately 20mg. Despite finding that reducing the limit would result in fewer road-accident fatalities and injuries, the government’s response was that:
improving enforcement is likely to have more impact on the most dangerous drink-drivers, whereas it would not be value for money—or the most effective use of resources—to lower the prescribed alcohol limit for driving.