Formula One legend Sir Jackie Stewart has called on festive partygoers to nominate a designated driver over Christmas as he backs the Sunday Mail’s Leave the Keys campaign.

Scottish motor racing icon Sir Jackie has been the face of several anti-drink drive campaigns since he was in his sporting prime in the 70s. Now he has praised our festive initiative after it emerged recorded cases had risen in 2019.

Speaking from his home in Switzerland, Sir Jackie, 80, said: “Sometimes drivers don’t think they have had much to drink but my view is you can’t be a little bit pregnant.

“In the same way, you can’t be a little bit intoxicated. It’s the difference between life and death.

“The easy way out of this is that there should a designated driver and make that driver a hero for the night. Then everyone gets home safe.

“Someone to say ‘I’m going out and I’m the designated driver and I’m not going to have a drink at all’. People look up to you because of that.”

Sir Jackie Stewart is backing the Sunday Mail's Leave the Keys campaign

Race ace Jackie recalled a test he underwent in America a number of years ago where his reaction speed behind the wheel was measured while sober and then after having a drink.

He said: “The minute you have alcohol, your senses are affected.

“People don’t know that. People still believe they can handle it. Alcohol definitely affects human reactions.

“Some people think they are bullet-proof and can manage it. They need to realise they can’t.

“When I did the test after they gave me alcohol I would not have been able to have a child run out in front of the car.

“Categorically, Jackie Stewart couldn’t do it.

“When I’m driving, I never drink. One glass in the wrong circumstances can be a loss of life.

“Some child isn’t going to have a mother and father. Some parents are not going to have a child.”

Ministers reduced the alcohol limit for drivers from 80 milligrammes per 100ml of blood to 50mg – or 22 micrograms (mcg) from 35mcg of alcohol in 100ml of breath – in 2014.

But statistics released by the force last month show officers detained 3092 motorists for being over the threshold between April and September.

The finding represented an increase of 5.3 per cent over the same period in 2018 when 2935 drivers were held.

Sir Jackie, who was born in Milton, Dunbartonshire, said he was “shocked” that the number of people detained for the offence this year had increased.

Earlier in our campaign, we spoke with the heartbroken loved ones of people killed by drink-drivers who told the Sunday Mail how much their lives had been impacted by the crime.

Martin Colquhoun's mum Mary Laurie was killed by a drunk driver

Martin Colquhoun told last week how his world had been turned upside down after his mum Marie Laurie was killed by a drink-driver hours after he got married.

Charles Pease also relived the moment police broke the news his partner Theresa Wade was killed by a driver who was over the limit.

And Julie Taylor revealed that she is still suffering physical and psychological problems years after she was involved in a crash with a drink-driver that killed her husband Colin.

Sir Jackie, who retired in 1973, set up Race Against Dementia after his wife Lady Helen, was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia in 2014.

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