Government urged to cut drink-drive limit after rise in the number of road accidents

Published 12 February 2020

The number of road accidents in the UK where at least one driver was over the legal alcohol limit has increased by four per cent. 

Provisional figures from the Department for Transport (DfT) show 5900 road accidents in 2018 where at least one driver was over the alcohol limit. In 2017, the official figure was 5700.

This means drink-drivers killed or injured 8700 people in 2018 - an increase of one per cent on the 8600 recorded in 2017. The figures were sourced from accident report forms from local police forces and toxicology data for road fatalities. 

The DfT will release its definitive 2018 drink-drive figures in August, but the data is expected to show that the number of people being killed by drink-drivers is similar to levels last seen in 2010.

The drink-drive limit in the UK was introduced in 1967 as part of the Road Safety Act, which set a maximum alcohol concentration of 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. 

Police 2

In 2014, Scotland revised the drink-drive limit to 50mg of alcohol. Road safety campaigners now want a similar reduction for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  

"The scourge of drink-drivers remains a serious problem in Great Britain. For nearly a decade there has been virtually no progress in reducing the number of fatalities involving a driver over the limit," said RAC spokesperson Rod Dennis.

"A reduction in the drink-drive limit in England and Wales could be a better deterrent for some of these drivers, but there is also a clear need for more roads policing officers and stronger measures to tackle reoffending."

In 1979, almost 10 per cent of all road casualties occurred in accidents where least one driver was over the drink-drive limit. This fell to six per cent by 1990 and has mainly varied around five per cent since then.


Falkirk Bairn    6 days ago

VERY VERY few Scottish drink drivers between the UK level and the lower Scottish level.

An unscientific scan of my weekly local paper has most DD well over the UK limit - 3,4,5 and even 6 x the Scottish limit in last week's paper

One of the biggest effects of the new Scottish limits is the number of golf clubs, bowling clubs + country pubs shutting.

Instead of quick drink in the 19th hole - it's clubs in the boot and off home.

1 pint of average beer could be very close to the Scottish DD limit.if you have not eaten and / or are of low body weight.

hissingsid    6 days ago

Falkirk Bairn makes a valid point. Any reduction of the legal drink-drive limit will have no effect on the hardened habitual drinkers who cause the most serious accidents. They will continue their selfish and dangerous behaviour until they are caught.

One unforeseen benefit of the drink-drive laws has been that most country pubs now serve food, and some serve restaurant quality food. When I started driving, a packet of crisps and a pickled egg was about all one could expect.

Engineer Andy    6 days ago

It would only make a difference if those referred to were in between the proposed lower limit and the existing one. I suspect they aren't - it's more that they don't expect to get caught.

Sulphur Man    5 days ago

Make it zero. No one can work out how much one can drink without breaching the limit. Far too many variables. Furthermore, who goes to the pub for just one half pint or small glass of wine? There's zero tolerance for drivers using phones at the wheel, and rightly so.

Just make it zero.

Edited by Sulphur Man on 13/02/2020 at 12:20

MrPogle    4 days ago

If you make it zero and "no one can work out how much one can drink without breaching the limit", at what time can I legally drive the next morning?

Husbandofstinky    12 minutes ago

Don't forget to refrain from using mouthwash too as technically you will be drink driving utilising this zero-tolerance approach.

As with the vast majority of the general public, drink driving is frowned upon even below the prescribed limit let alone the unthinkable above it. However, according to a detailed NIHR report (please look it up), there is no formal data to suggest that there is a reduction in accident rates before and after lowering the limit. Compared to the rest of the UK, lowering the rate had no effect statistically and even relative to the rest of the UK, RTA's were actually 7% higher in Scotland.

Although in principle a reduction sounds like a partial silver bullet, in practice and as highlighted by the anecdotal evidence from post number one, the reality doesn't come anywhere near to its objective. In fact, quite the opposite for communities as pubs and clubs will continue to fail and close at an increased rate. In Scotland, onsite alcohol sales per person have reduced following the reduction, again suggesting a backing of post number one's observations and anecdotal evidence.

Definitely a tough subject to crack.

Add a comment


Ask Honest John

Value my car