• Data for 2018 reveals 5,900 accidents involved a driver over the alcohol limit
  • This is 200 more than during the previous 12 months, the DfT estimated
  • Transport safety groups attributed rise to the falling number of police officers
  • Figures show the overall number of road-side breath tests conducted by the police in 2018 are at the lowest annual level on record

There has been a 4 per cent spike in the number of drink-drive crashes on Britain’s roads, new figures released today show.

Provisional estimates reveal 5,900 accidents involved at least one driver over the alcohol limit in 2018, the Department for Transport reported on Wednesday.

This is 200 more than during the previous 12 months, and means around one in 20 of all reported crashes involved a drunk driver. 

Transport safety groups have attributed the rise to the falling number of road officers policing streets, with Home Office figures showing that the overall number of roadside breath tests in England and Wales is at the lowest annual level on record.

The central estimate for the number of people killed in these accidents is 240.

This is similar to levels seen since 2010 and the fall from 250 in 2017 is ‘not statistically significant’, it states in the DfT’s report.

The final drink-drive casualty figures for two years ago will be published in August.

The Scottish Government reduced the alcohol limit for drivers from 80 milligrammes (mg) per 100 millilitres of blood to 50mg in December 2014, but the legal level in the rest of the UK remains 80mg. 

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 need more cops in cars to help tackle the problem Edmund King, AA. 

‘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.’

Critics of such an approach, who disagree with lowering the drink drive limit, argue that the existing one is sufficient but should be enforced with better policing. 

While Britain’s limit is higher than in many European countries, many of those have been cut to bring down accident rates, whereas the UK has the safest roads in Europe, according to EC statistics.

Provisional GB estimates for 2018 show there were 240 fatalities in #DrinkDrive accidents where at least one driver or rider was over the alcohol limit, continuing a period of stability recorded since 2010. #RoadSafety http://bit.ly/38eyNBN 

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Mr Harris said: ‘We need to change the culture around drink-driving and that starts with changing a limit which gives a false impression that it is acceptable to mix alcohol and driving – this couldn’t be further from the truth.

‘Even very small amounts of alcohol dramatically affect your ability to drive safely and the law should reflect this reality.’  

Edmund King, president at the AA, said the number of motorists found to be more than twice the legal alcohol limit is ‘worryingly high’, as is the volume of drivers who are involved in accidents in the morning with illegal amounts of alcohol still in their systems from the night before.

‘While the most common time drivers are tested is the evening, the number of drivers failing a test at 8am is staggering,’ he said.

‘Clearly more needs to be done to educate drivers that a good night’s sleep won’t sober you up.’

He went on to call policy changes to increase the number of police officers patrolling the roads as a deterrent for those who think they can get away with drink driving. 

‘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,’ he urged. 

These latest figures suggest the number of people killed in road accidents where a driver was over the drink drive limit has failed to drop since 2010. 

Hunter Abbott, managing director of breathalyser firm AlcoSense and a member of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS), said the figures correlate with the volume of breath tests being conducted at the roadside.

‘Only 42 per cent of drivers involved in an accident in 2018 were breath-tested by police,’ he pointed out. 

‘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’.

The overall number of breath tests is also the lowest on record.

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

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

Article Courtesy of thisismoney.co.uk