Festive drink-driving on the increase as 154 motorists a day caught over the limit

Festive drink-driving on the increase as 154 motorists a day caught over the limit
Festive drink-driving on the increase as 154 motorists a day caught over the limit

Drink-driving offences over the Christmas period jumped by 16 per cent last year, according to new police data.

December saw the highest number of motorists caught over the drink-drive limit in 2018, with an average of 154 a day found to be breaking the law.

As we head into the festive party season and police step up checks for drink-drivers, a Freedom of Information request has gathered data from 40 of the UK’s 45 police forces and found that in December 2018 4,761 drivers were found over the drink-drive limit, up from 4,092 in December 2017.

It also found an overall rise in drink-driving offenders, with 55,697 reported by forces in 2018 compared with 51,344 in 2017.

Ignorance of the limits

police car
A third of drivers admitted to being confused by the drink-drive limit (Photo: Shutterstock)

The data was obtained by comparison website Confused which found that a worrying one in three drivers (36 per cent) did not understand the drink-drink limits and two in five (42 per cent) had driven while knowing or thinking they were over the limit.

The current drink-drive limit in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood or 35 microgrammes of alcohol per 100ml of breath. In Scotland, it is 50mg/100ml blood or 22mcg of alcohol in 100ml of breath.

Read more: What is the UK drink-drive limit and what are the punishments for breaking it?

Confused’s research found that many drivers judged their safety by the number of drinks they had, despite there being huge differences depending on the drink. More than one in three (37 per cent) said they would drive after having one drink while almost as many (32 per cent) said they would feel safe driving after two drinks.

Everything from the strength of the booze and your bodyweight to what you’ve eaten and how stressed you feel can have an impact on your blood alcohol levels, meaning judging by number of drinks is a deeply flawed measure.

Read more: More than 5,000 motorists have been caught drink-driving multiple times

Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at Confused.com, commented: “With many of us enjoying celebrations with friends and family, we need to clue up on the drink-drive laws, as it’s clear so many people are taking the risk and driving after a drink. And as our experiment shows, sometimes even one drink is enough to push us over the limit.”

The research comes after government data showed that the number of drink-drive-related deaths has reached an eight-year high at the same time as roadside breath tests fell.

Commenting on the figures Hunter Abbott, managing director of AlcoSense Laboratories and member of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, said: “This appears to be one of clearest indications yet that the savage cuts to drink drive awareness campaigns and police numbers are combining to create an environment where drivers are forgetting the potentially fatal risks of driving with alcohol in their system.

“They feel they are unlikely to be caught.

“The risk of being in a fatal accident increases exponentially as blood alcohol levels rise – even if you are below the drink drive limit. Having just one eighth of the English limit in your blood makes you 37 per cent more likely to be involved in a fatal crash – and at the English limit  you are 13 times more likely.

“The only safe limit is zero – both the same day, and the morning after a few drinks.”

The morning after

The Confused research also found that many drivers were risking driving the morning after a heavy night despite still being over the limit. Of the drivers polled for its research, it found almost half (46 per cent) who had been caught drink-driving were caught the day after.

Read more: How accurate are home breathalysers?

Separate figures from Gem Motoring Assist suggest that between 15 and 20 per cent of all drink-drink convictions involved “morning-after” offences.

Stretton added: “Surprisingly, the morning after seems to be a prime time for drink-drivers. But how long do we need to wait before we can drive? Working out units versus hours passed is confusing at the best of times, so we’ve released our morning-after calculator to estimate when you should be safe to drive.

“Ultimately, jumping behind the wheel after a drink is putting yourself and other road users at risk. Not only this but it can land you with a fine or driving ban. If you’re drinking, don’t drive. If you’re driving, don’t drink.”

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