The number of women drink drivers is rising. That’s what the road safety campaigners are telling us.
Recent reports show women make up 20 per cent of drink drivers – which is up from 17 percent a decade ago. But many women don’t even know they’re at risk.
For Angela Mollard, these statistics are close to home. She writes:
It was a year ago, almost to the day. I’d been invited to a Christmas dinner with the editors of a magazine I write for and had rushed there late, throwing instructions to the babysitter as I dashed out the door.
I’d considered taking the bus but I’m not a big drinker. I’m also a dreadful tight-arse so a taxi was out of the question. We were dining at Toko in Surry Hills – a vibey Japanese place big on looks, low on carbs. Think shaved zucchini, salmon tartare, an oyster – possibly two.
My glass was filled before I even sat down. A sauvignon – sharper than usual it seemed. Later, I’d realise why: 10 hours had passed since the morning’s porridge and a frantically busy day meant I hadn’t eaten since.
A good two decades of drinking has taught me this: the first glass is always the best, the juiciest conversations occur midway through the second, a third makes me say things I regret, a fourth and I’ve lost one of life’s precious days to a hangover.
This night was a two glasser. But the gossip was great – the celeb who neglected to get a wax before her bikini photoshoot, the dodgy agent, the stroppy stylist. Mag girls can always be relied upon for an entertaining night.
When I left three hours later I was happy. Not drunk happy, chatty happy. I’d had my two glasses but still felt suspiciously hungry. I almost swung through McDonalds on the way home.
Coasting down the hill I spotted them. Lights bright, reflector jackets beckoning. Not again. One of the downsides of appearing on the Today show early on Sunday mornings is that a full-face of make-up is like a red rag to a cop. They breathalyse me for a pastime.
I knew the schtick. Yes, officer, I’ve been drinking. Wine. Two glasses. Over three hours. I blew down the tube and checked the time. Damn, I’d owe the babysitter another fiver (did I mention I’m a tight arse?).
“You’re over the limit,” he said. “You’ve blown 0.053. You need to come down to the station.
Shame soaked through me, more sickening than day-old champagne. I started to shake, horrified that I could have been so stupid, so careless. I am a mother, a wife, a commentator who doesn’t think twice about spouting my views on the reckless and the feckless. I had become one of them.
At home my two daughters slept on. My husband was away working. I called our teenage babysitter, self-disgust pouring from every pore. What sort of role model was I?
At the police station I tried desperately not to cry. Yes, I seemed sober, the officer said. But the numbers tell the truth. “Two glasses – how do you know, did you pour your own wine?” he queried. Happens all the time, he said. If only women would pour their own drinks.
After 20 minutes I had to blow again, nerves sabotaging the first attempt. Three tests are all you’re allowed. Stuff those and you’re booked, even if you’re under the limit. I blew – and prayed to a God I don’t often call upon.
It came back 0.042. I was under the limit. Free, but somehow sullied. Back home I paid the babysitter, confessed how close I’d come, then sank into the sofa, tears spilling.
More women are drink-driving than ever before. – last year they made up almost a fifth of all those convicted: An arts student four times over the limit, a corporate lawyer still drunk the morning after, a 60-year-old going to pick up her husband from work. And the party season is once again upon us.
As for me, I came so close, so easily. And I was deeply ashamed. My pride, my self-worth – it would recover. But what of the child I could have hit, the parent I could have killed, the innocent I could have injured? A friend from teenage days is in a wheelchair thanks to a drunk driver. Another is dead.
The measure of my shame is that I couldn’t tell my husband. I didn’t want to disappoint him. For a month I carried the horribleness round in my head until – on holiday – I could hold on to it no more. Writing this has been equally difficult. Judge me, because you should. But then think about how you can make sure this doesn’t happen to you.
This article originally appeared in The Daily Telegraph and has been republished here with full permission.
Angela Mollard is a Sydney-based journalist who began her career at the New Zealand Herald before moving to London where she worked for the Daily Mail. For the past few years she has combined motherhood with writing for magazines both in Australia and the UK. You can follow her on Twitter here.