Home Office statistics today revealed that the number of breath tests conducted on drivers suspected of drink driving in 2009 was 813,288 - just two per cent of drivers.

The news comes as research out today by Brake and Direct Line shows that public perceptions of the likelihood of being caught if they risk drink-driving is low. More than half of drivers (53 per cent) think there is a less than a one in four chance of being caught if they were to drive while over the limit, while nearly a third (31 per cent) think there is less than a one in ten chance of being caught.

One in six road deaths are caused by drink drivers. In 2009 (the most recent figures available), there were seven deaths and 28 serious injuries every week in Britain caused by drink drivers who were over the limit.

In March 2011, the government announced that it will not lower the drink drive limit or introduce random breath-testing. Brake told FIRE that this was in spite of recommendations from parliament's Transport Select Committee and an independent review by Sir Peter North. Instead the government said they would make it easier for the police to enforce current laws by streamlining breath testing procedures.

While the government wishes to concentrate on enforcement of current drink drive limits, Brake said that it will become even harder for police to do this. In 2010, government funding cuts to policing resulted in some police force areas cutting the number of traffic police by more than half.

Brake has called for the following action in the UK:

  • Police powers should be increased to enable targeted, random breath-testing of drivers without the need to suspect impairment. This type of high-profile enforcement, used successfully in many other countries, has been shown to be a highly effective (and cost-effective) deterrent
  • Traffic policing should be made a national policing priority, with sufficient investment in this area to enable a significant increase in numbers of breath-tests
  • The drink drive limit should be reduced to 20mg alcohol per 100ml blood, effectively a zero-tolerance limit, as any amount of alcohol can impair driving.

Julie Townsend, Brake's campaigns director, said: "The number of breath tests being carried out is wholly inadequate in providing an effective deterrent and tackling the appalling number of casualties that continue to result from drink driving. As well as rejecting proposals for a lower drink drive limit, the government has rejected random breath testing, a policy that we know to be effective from international evidence. At the same time we are seeing big cuts to traffic policing and a freeze on high-profile media campaigns on drink driving.

"Brake supports people who have been bereaved or injured through road crashes, so we understand the devastating impact these decisions have on people's lives. The government needs to urgently strengthen our position on drink driving before more lives are lost."

Andy Goldby, Director of Motor Underwriting at Direct Line Insurance, said: "Drink driving is one of the most serious crimes a driver can commit and one that needs to be tackled with real conviction. If we are to make any headway into achieving our goal of the safest roads in the world, we need to ensure that the right laws, limits and learning are in place here in the UK."


Posted by Andrew Lynch at 12.10pm on 14.4.11. Comment on this article by sending it to: andrew.lynch@pavpub.com