Drink-driving deaths at same level as 2010

Provisional figures from the Department for Transport show there’s been no overall reduction in annual drink-driving deaths since 2010

The number of annual drink-driving fatalities in the UK remains at the same level as it was in 2010, according to new Government data.

Provisional data from the Department for Transport suggests there were 240 drink-driving deaths in 2018. This figure is a central estimate – the upper and lower bounds being 270 and 220 respectively – and, if accurate, would indicate that drink-driving fatalities have not shown a significant statistical decrease in the last decade.

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Although a final fatality figure of 240 would be a slight reduction from 2017’s 250, the total number of casualties is estimated to have risen one per cent year-on-year to 8,700, while the number of drink-driving accidents is thought to have gone up four per cent to 5,900.

According to the latest Home Office figures, only 320,988 drivers were breathalysed by police at the roadside in 2018 – less than half the 670,023 tested in 2009.

Hunter Abbott, managing director of breathalyser firm AlcoSense, explained: “Only 42 per cent of drivers involved in an accident in 2018 were breath tested by police. This has declined steadily since 2008, when 55 per cent of motorists were breathalysed after a collision.

“Of those who actually were tested following an accident, more than 3,800 were over the limit, at 4.4 per cent – that’s the highest failure rate for 10 years.”

Edmund King, president of the AA, commented: “Drink driving is totally unacceptable, but the number of those more than twice the limit continues to be worryingly high. 

“While the most common time drivers are tested is the evening, the number of drivers failing a test at 8am is staggering. Clearly more needs to be done to educate drivers that a good night’s sleep won’t sober you up.

“Police forces are doing all they can to tackle the issue, but as the number of officers has reduced, people feel they can get away with it. We need more cops in cars to help tackle the problem.”

Police cuts coincide with record number of drink-drivers

The steady level of drink-driving deaths follows on from analysis which showed that a record spike in recorded drink-driving incidents was linked with cuts to the number of serving police officers.

Data from the Department for Transport showed that in 2017, 250 fatal and serious drink-driving incidents were recorded, the highest number since 2010; the number of serious drink-driving incidents stood at 1,380 – 140 more than were logged at the start of the decade.

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In the same period since 2010, police forces across the UK saw full-time officer numbers fall 17 per cent, with a 55 per cent reduction in the number of roadside breath tests, according to analysis from Vantage Leasing.

UK police forces conducted 737,000 roadside breath tests in 2010, with suspects giving a positive alcohol reading in 11 per cent of cases. Just 326,000 roadside breath tests took place in 2017, however, with 16 per cent generating positive readings.

The drink-drive limit in England and Wales is 80mg per 100ml of blood. Scotland adopted a lower limit of 50mg in 2014 in line with the majority of European countries.

What is the drink-driving limit in the UK? We’ve explained the letter of the law…