UK’s drink driving epidemic continues unchecked, new figures reveal

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The latest Department for Transport (DfT) figures reveal a decade of no improvement in drink-drive related deaths on UK roads continues.

Most worryingly, the rate of drink-drive related crashes actually went up as traffic fell during the first nine months of measures to control the Covid-19 pandemic. Over one in six of all fatal crashes involved alcohol in 2020 compared to around one in seven in previous years.

Final estimates for 2020 of road casualties in Great Britain involving illegal alcohol levels, revealed 220 people died in crashes where at least one driver was over the drink-drive limit compared to 230 in 2019.

Over the same period, the total number of crashes where at least one driver was over the alcohol limit was 4,620 in 2020, an average of 12 crashes a day. Of these crashes, an estimated 1,070 were serious accidents, representing an average of around 26 serious accidents a week and only a minor fall from 1,390 in 2019.

Neil Greig, director of policy and research at IAM RoadSmart, says, “While there has been a small reduction in the number of drink-driving related deaths and injuries compared to 2019, when you factor in the reduction in traffic due to Covid-19, the role of alcohol in fatal crashes actually went up.

“There is no one simple answer to reducing these figures, but IAM RoadSmart believes a much smarter package of measures is needed from the Government including a lower drink-drive limit to reinforce good behaviour, fast-track of evidential roadside testing machines to release police resources and tailored approaches to help drivers with alcohol problems.

“Rehabilitation courses work, and we believe all those convicted of drink-driving should be sent on one automatically rather than having to opt in. More use of alcolocks – which require the driver to blow into a mouthpiece on the device before starting or continuing to operate the vehicle – and extra penalties such as vehicle forfeiture could all be part of a more joined-up approach to the problem. Hard core drink-drivers are simply not getting the message, and these figures will not improve until policy changes.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).