The Department for Transport estimates that 9050 people were killed or injured in incidents where at least one driver was found to be over the limit in Great Britain in 2016. This was up from 8470 in 2015 and represents the highest figure since 2012.
The total number of collisions and accidents involving drink drivers rose by 6%, with as many as 280 people estimated to have been killed in such incidents in 2016.
“The picture that emerges from the latest drink drive statistics is a disturbing one,” said motoring group the RAC’s road safety spokesman Pete Williams. “At best, progress in reducing fatal crashes as a result of people drinking and driving continues to stall.”
He called for the Government to review the drink-drive limit in England and Wales, which he described as the most forgiving of anywhere in Europe. This, he added, “surely sends the wrong message to anyone who thinks about getting behind the wheel after having too much to drink”.
A spokesman for road safety charity Brake urged the introduction of a “zero tolerance” limit of 20mg per 100ml of blood, alongside greater prioritisation and resources for traffic policing to confront the problem. The drink drive limit in England and Wales currently stands at 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.
The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety’s executive director David Davies also supports a lower drink drive limit, but emphasises that this is not a “magic bullet” and must come alongside increased levels of enforcement.
He added that simply relying on drink drive campaigns is not enough to reduce incidents in the context of falling numbers of specialist roads police.
“People recognise when there are higher or lower levels of enforcement,” he said. “If people think they can get away with drink driving, there will always be those that try.”
David Davies also called for the roll out of mobile breath testers that would allow police to take court-recognised breath samples from suspected drink drivers at the roadside, rather than having to take them to a police station first.
Meanwhile motoring group the AA’s head of roads policy Jack Cousens said that more targeted policing is needed to tackle numbers of “hard-core drink drivers”, who are frequent offenders but may feel that they will never be caught.
“We need more road traffic officers targeting people in places where there is most likely to be the problem,” he said.
Statistics released by the DfT indicate that the most common time for drink drive collisions to occur is midnight, with over 40% of accidents occurring between 9pm and 2am.
In addition, motorists under the age of 24 are statistically the most likely to be involved in drink drive accidents.
The statistics were published after Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to have the Department for Transport look into introducing a system of graduated driver licensing last week. This could see young motorists restricted from driving on certain roads or at certain times of the day for a probationary period after passing their test.
A DfT spokesman said: “Britain has some of the safest roads in the world and the number of fatalities has fallen by 44% over the last 10 years, but we are determined to do more.
“Our campaigns, especially those focusing on road safety, play a key role in ensuring the public stays safe on the roads. Our hard hitting Think! campaigns continue to have a positive impact on road users, encouraging safer behaviour to reduce the number of people killed and injured.
“We continue to work closely with road safety groups to develop common sense proposals that balance tougher penalties for dangerous drivers with help for road users to stay safe.”
Photo: West Midlands Police