Drink drive deaths rose to an eight year high in 2017 – despite a year-on-year fall in the number collisions involving a driver over the legal alcohol limit.
Provisional stats for 2017, published today (14 Feb) by the DfT, show that 290 people were killed in collisions where at least one driver was over the drink-drive limit – the highest number since 2009.
The figure, which equates to approximately 16% of road deaths in 2017, is 26% higher than 2016 – when there was an estimated 230 drink drive related deaths.
Despite the substantial rise in deaths, there was a year-on-year fall in the total number of drink drive related injuries in 2017 – down by 4% to 8,660.
There was also a 6% year-on-year fall in the number of crashes involving a drink driver – down from 6,070 to 5,730.
Drink drive limit gives ‘false impression’
Responding to the figures, road safety charity Brake says the current drink-drive limit in England and Wales ‘gives a false impression that it is acceptable to mix alcohol and driving’.
England and Wales now stand alone with the highest drink drive limit in Europe (0.8mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood) after Malta, the previous joint highest, lowered its drink drive limit to 0.5mg of alcohol in 100ml per litre of blood last year.
Josh Harris, director of campaigns for Brake, said: “With England and Wales now having the dubious honour of the highest drink-drive limit in Europe, we have to ask how many more lives must be lost for the Government to act on drink driving?
“Our current drink-drive limit gives a false impression that it is acceptable to mix alcohol and driving – which couldn’t be further from the truth.
“Even very small amounts of alcohol dramatically affect your ability to drive safely. Decisive action is needed to end this blight on our roads and prevent the needless loss of life.”
Do drivers think they can get away with it?
The RAC says the figures – combined with a reduced number of roads policing officers – suggest more drivers think they can get away with the offence.
Pete Williams, RAC road safety spokesman, said: “Looking at these estimated figures there could be an increase of up to a 33% in the number of road deaths resulting from an accident where one or more drivers was over the drink-drive limit.
“This is a serious cause for alarm and reflects a worrying change in attitude by a number of drivers who are prepared to risk their own life and that of others by drinking and driving.
“With the reduced number of roads policing officers it appears more drivers are thinking they can get away with drinking and driving. However this is a major issue for society and we need to refocus our efforts to raise awareness of the risks.”
The DfT statistical bulletin reads as follows:
“The provisional central estimate of the number of deaths in accidents with at least one driver over the alcohol limit for 2017 is 290. This represents about 16% of all deaths in reported road accidents in 2017. The central estimate for 2017 is higher than the final figure for 2016, but the increase is not statistically significant. The 95% confidence range indicates that we can be 95% certain that thetruefigure, as opposed to the estimate, falls somewhere between 240 and 330 fatalities.
“The provisional estimate for 2017 is based on coroners’ and procurators’ fiscal reports for 28% of the drivers or riders who were killed in road traffic accidents in 2017 in addition to breath tests taken at the scene (see definitions opposite). The final figure for 2017 will be published in August 2019, and is likely to be based on around 60-70% of drivers who died in road accidents. Therefore the final 2017 figure may be different from this provisional estimate.”