Drink-drive crashes on the increase as roadside testing is halved in 10 years

Drink-drive crashes on the increase as roadside testing is halved in 10 years
Drink-drive crashes on the increase as roadside testing is halved in 10 years

The number of crashes on UK roads involving a drink-driver has increased four per cent, according to the latest official data.

Provisional Department for Transport figures for 2018 show there were 5,900 incidents involving at least one driver who was over the legal limit.

That is 200 more than in 2018 and means that one in 20 of all crashes involved a drink-driver.

The figures also show that 240 people were killed in drink-drive-related incidents in 2018, meaning such fatalities have now remained static since 2010. The total number of related casualities rose one per cent to 8,700.

The latest data has prompted calls for England, Wales and Northern Ireland to lower their limits to the Scottish level and accusations that reduced police funding is affecting enforcement, with roadside testing at its lowest level since records began.

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

Police officer with breathalyser
The number of roadside breath tests has halved since 2009 (Photo: JPIMedia)

“Only 42 per cent of drivers involved in an accident in 2018 were breath-tested by police”, commented Hunter Abbott, member of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety and managing director of breathalyser firm AlcoSense.

“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.

“Casualties will not reduce until better enforcement is in place, combined with stricter limits and drink driving awareness campaigns.”

Josh Harris, director of campaigns for road safety charity Brake, said: “With thousands of people still being killed and injured at the hands of drink-drivers every year and little sign of this situation improving, decisive action needs to be taken.

“We’re calling on the Government to lower the limit and implement an effective zero-tolerance on drink-driving, making clear to drivers that when you’re behind the wheel, not a drop of alcohol is safe.”

Stop ignoring the evidence

Hunter Abbott added: “England and Wales have the highest drink drive limit in the developed world, far above the ‘point of intoxication’ when the cognitive effects of alcohol on a person are measurable.

“At the English/Welsh limit, despite not contravening the law, research shows you are 13 times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than when sober.

“We call on the Government to increase the number of road traffic officers, in order to restore roadside breath testing to the levels of a decade ago.

“The Home Office should also stop ignoring robust scientific evidence and the advice of road safety experts – the drink drive limit should be reduced from its current dangerously high level.”

Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, said: “Policy in this area hasn’t moved for half a century, but in the face of mounting evidence it increasingly falls on opponents of a limit reduction to defend the status quo, rather than asking those who support a cut to keep making their case.”

A DfT spokeswoman said: “While there has been a long-term reduction in drink-driving since 1979, we are determined to reduce this number even further.

“Our latest Think! campaign calls on people to intervene if someone they know is planning to drink before getting behind the wheel, while our road safety action plan includes more than 70 different measures to help drive down the number of deaths on our roads.”

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