There were 260 deaths on Britain’s roads in 2021 where a motorist was over the drink drive limit – an alarming increase of 18% over the previous year and the highest since 2009.
Drunk drivers accounted for 17% of all road deaths.
The year-on-year rise reflects the impact of the pandemic lockdown taking many cars off the roads and reducing mileages of those who still drove, but the results also reveal police have not been so active breath-testing drivers after accidents.
Final figures for 2021 released by the Department for Transport today estimate a total of 6,740 people were injured in drink drive accidents, up 4%.
“It’s very concerning indeed to see the number of fatalities caused by a drunk driver increase by nearly a fifth,” said Hunter Abbott, MD of personal breathalyser firm AlcoSense.
“Although we spent much of 2020 in lockdown, resulting in less traffic on the roads, restrictions were also in place for the first half of 2021 so again there were fewer vehicle movements than usual.
“We haven’t seen this many drink drive deaths for 12 years.
“What these figures don’t tell you, of course, is how many more casualties were caused by ‘lethal but legal’ drivers – those who were above the point of intoxication where effects on cognitive function occur, but below the official drink drive limit”.
Analysis by AlcoSense of the new data shows that London and the South East accounted for 28% of all drink drive casualties in Great Britain, with Scotland (where the drink drive limit is lower) recording the fewest (3%).
In Wales there were 320 killed or seriously injured casualties (5%) related to drink driving.
July was the worst month for drink-related injuries on the roads.
Just 37% of motorists involved in a collision were breathalysed, compared with 54% ten years previously.
“More drivers need to be tested by Police after an accident,” adds Mr Abbott, who is also a member of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety. “Every year 17% of motorists fail the test or refuse to provide a sample”.
RAC road safety spokesman Simon Williams added, “These figures are extremely worrying and demonstrate that the battle against drink-driving is far from over. This should be a wake-up call to both the Government and police forces about the need for effective enforcement, including increased roadside breathalysing. Our message to drivers is simple yet stark: drink-driving ruins lives.”