A Government report this week showed that the number of people killed in road accidents where the motorist was over the drink drive limit has risen 25% in two years.
There were 250 such deaths in 2017, compared with 200 in 2015. The number of serious casualties has also increased over the same two year period from 1,170 to 1,380.
The latest drink-drive figures from the Department for Transport revealed a disappointing lack of forward progress – and road safety charity IAM RoadSmart has again called for a long-term plan to tackle the issue in a meaningful package of measures.
The figures show that in 2017, the latest full year statistics are available, there were 220 fatal crashes where alcohol was a factor – no change from the previous year. The figures also showed 1,110 serious crashes, up by 100 on the previous year. There were 8,600 total casualties from road crashes, which although down from the previous year’s total of 9,040, is up on the figures from 2013-5.
Measures being advocated by IAM RoadSmart include a further lowering of the drink-drive limit in England and Wales to match Scotland, wider use of drink-drive rehabilitation courses and also following the example of Scotland by seizing the vehicles of repeat offenders.
Neil Greig, director of policy and research at IAM RoadSmart, said, “It is truly disappointing to find yet another year of very little progress. Successive changes in government means we do not get the continuity or the focus that is required to create a long-term plan that will tackle this in a structured and cohesive way.
“There is no one simple answer to reducing these figures, but IAM RoadSmart believes we now need an emergency package of measures from the government including a lower drink-drive limit to reinforce good behaviour, the fast-tracking of evidential roadside testing machines to release police resources, as well as the introduction of innovative approaches to help drivers with alcohol problems.
“Rehabilitation courses work and we think all those convicted of drink-driving should be sent on one automatically rather than having to opt in. More use of alcohol interlocks and extra penalties such as vehicle forfeiture, as used in Scotland, could all be part of more joined-up approach to the problem, ultimately leading to fewer needless deaths on our roads.”
RAC head of policy Nicholas Lyes added, “These figures are disappointing and show that much more needs to be done to eradicate the scourge of drink-driving.
“The data shows that no discernible progress has been made for nine years in reducing the number of people killed in road traffic collisions where at least one driver was over the legal drink-drive limit.
“The Government should be looking closely at all its options, even reviewing the drink-drive limit. But ultimately, it is absolutely vital that we have police enforcing laws and increasing roadside breathalyser testing so that law breakers know they will be caught.”
Hunter Abbott, managing director of personal breathalyser firm AlcoSense, went on, “Police carried out just 325,000 roadside breath tests in England and Wales in 2017 – a fall of 15% over the previous year and the lowest level since this data has been collected.
“The number of road traffic officers also decreased by 30% between 2007 and 2017. There’s a direct link between cuts in Police budgets and increased drink drive deaths. Together with the highest drink drive limit in the developed world, it’s a lethal cocktail.
“Studies show you are 13 times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident when at the Welsh, English and Northern Ireland limit, compared with being sober – and five times more likely at the lower Scottish limit.
“A two-pronged strategy of better enforcement, plus a drink drive limit across the UK in line with the rest of Europe, could save many lives each year,” concluded Hunter Abbott.