Convicted Drink Driver Speaks Out
If you have to ask 'am I safe to drive?' The answer is you're not; convicted drink-driver speaks out
It's been almost a year since she got her licence back, but for Karen the stigma of her drink-driving conviction has lasted well beyond her two-year driving ban.
Now the mother-of-one from Winchester has agreed to speak out about the toll the conviction has taken on her life in a bid to stop others making the same mistake.
In partnership with Hampshire Constabulary, Karen has produced a three-minute YouTube video about the impact her conviction has had on her life.
The video has been posted on the force's Facebook and Twitter profiles to encourage others to think twice before getting behind the wheel after drinking.
"People who hop in the car after too much to drink only think of themselves" she said. "They don't think what if I hit someone? They think I hope I don't get caught."
"So I hope my advice appeals to that selfish attitude.
"Drink-driver is a label which lingers long after you're caught and convicted. Forever you'll be known as the person caught drink-driving, no matter what else you do with your life.
"As a woman, I think, it's even worse. I've had people say to me but you're a mother. You could have killed a child, even though strictly speaking, I wasn't caught drink-driving."
Karen was arrested at her home in 2009 after a neighbour saw her stumble out of her car and called police.
"I was having a tough time," said Karen. "I was relying on alcohol a lot, to the point where my husband banned it from the house."
"I'd just come back from a counselling session. I'd passed the shop on my way home and bought a bottle of wine. When I pulled-up outside my house I necked it in the car before going inside.
"When the police knocked on my door I couldn’t believe what they were saying. They breathalysed me and I was over the drink-drive limit and as there was no conclusive proof I hadn't driven while drunk, I was arrested, taken to the police station and kept overnight.
"Being in custody was an awful experience. I was fingerprinted, had my photo taken, had my jewellery and my shoes taken off me and was put in a cell."
Karen was handed a two-year-ban by magistrates.
"The whole thing was a huge strain on my marriage. When I went to court it was awful, I was embarrassed and ashamed. I also couldn't bear to tell people what had happened but I imagined they knew.
"To this day I am ashamed of it and disgusted with myself. It has affected my whole life. I ended up giving up work. Not having a car made it made it more difficult going places so my freedom was totally lost and by extension, my son's was too.
"Now I am back driving my insurance is through the roof and I still have to live with the guilt, shame and upset I caused.
"For those who get in the car knowing they are over the limit, I beg you - I plead with you - not to do it.
"If you have to ask am I safe to drive, the answer is you're not."