Brake welcomes fall in Xmas drink driving but renews call for zero tolerance

24 January 2014

Brake, the road safety charity

Brake, the road safety charity, has praised police for their increased efforts to catch drink and drug drivers over the festive period and welcomed news that drink drive arrests were down while breath-tests were up.

6,550 people were arrested in the month-long police enforcement campaign over Christmas and New Year, 573 less than during the same period last year, according to figures released by the Association of Chief Police Officers today.

The drop in arrests comes despite a welcome increase in enforcement activity over the period, with 191,040 breath tests conducted, up from 175,831 in 2012. 3.4% of those tested failed or refused the test, down from 4% in 2012. Drink driving also fell among young people, with 4.4% of under 25s failing the test, down from 5.3% in 2012.

However, Brake warns there is still a long way to go to completely stamp out the menace of drink and drug driving throughout the year. According to a recent Brake survey, many drivers are continuing to take the deadly risk of driving after drinking [1], and many who pass the breath test could still be unsafe to drive due to the UK's high drink drive limit. Hence Brake is renewing its calls for a zero tolerance drink drive limit of 20mg per 100 ml blood. See calls for government action below.

Brake is also urging the government to give greater priority to traffic policing and ensure sufficient resourcing is available for vital drink and drug driving enforcement, following significant cuts in recent years [2].

Brake urges all drivers never to drink any alcohol or take any drugs before driving: not a drop, not a drag. See Brake's advice below.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, said: "It is encouraging to see an increase in vital drink drive enforcement over the festive period and fewer arrests. However drink driving remains one of the biggest killers on our roads and we have some way to go before we persuade all drivers to commit to never driving after drinking. People who persist in drink driving needlessly put the lives of others at grave risk and too often cause crashes that devastate families and communities, all for the sake of a drink. The police do great work catching these irresponsible drivers, but the government needs to give them the backing they need to do their job, by making traffic policing a national priority and adopting a zero tolerance limit. The message needs to be clear: it should be none for the road."

Read about Brake's 'not a drop, not a drag' campaign.

One in six deaths on UK roads are caused by drink drivers over the current legal limit [3], but drivers with even 20-50mg alcohol per 100ml of blood are at least three times more likely to die in a crash than those with no alcohol in their blood [4]. This is because even small amounts of alcohol affect drivers' reaction times, judgment and co-ordination. Alcohol also makes it impossible for drivers to assess their own impairment because it creates a false sense of confidence and means drivers are more inclined to take risks and believe they are in control when they are not [5].

Brake's advice
Even very small amounts of alcohol affect drivers' reaction times and hazard perception, making them much more likely to crash. This is the case even if the driver doesn't feel drunk or even tipsy. So the only way to ensure you're safe if you're driving this festive season is not drink any alcohol before driving, and never drive the morning after having more than one or two drinks. And as a passenger, only accept a lift with a driver who's had no alcohol at all.

Planning ahead to get home safely will help you avoid getting into an awkward or risky situation, such as having to refuse a lift from a driver who has had alcohol. If you're getting a lift back from a night out with someone, make sure they are 100% on board with not having any alcohol at all. Always have a plan B just in case a designated driver lets you down, or arrange from the outset to get a taxi or public transport instead.

Calls for government action
Brake calls for a zero tolerance limit of 20mg alcohol per 100ml of blood, to send a clear message that it should be none for the road. This allows for naturally occurring alcohol in the body, and is a limit set by numerous other countries including Sweden, Poland and Greece. The EU recommends a limit of no more than 50mg, and within the EU only Malta shares the UK's limit of 80mg alcohol. Governments in Scotland and Northern Ireland have announced intentions to reduce their limits to 50mg alcohol per 100ml blood. In Northern Ireland, newly qualified drivers and commercial drivers will have a zero tolerance limit of 20mg.

Brake is an independent road safety charity. Brake exists to stop the five deaths and 63 serious injuries that happen on UK roads every day and to care for families bereaved and seriously injured in road crashes. Brake runs awareness-raising campaigns, community education programmes, events such as Road Safety Week (17-23 November 2014), and a Fleet Safety Forum, providing advice to companies. Brake's support division cares for road crash victims through a helpline and other services.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

End notes
[1] Christmas party-goers urged to help save lives by standing up to 'designated drivers' who drink, as survey shows we're still too timid, Brake, 10 December 2013
[2] Huge roads policing cuts put public at risk, warns charity, Brake, 23 January 2012
[3] Reported Road Casualties in Great Britain: 2012 Annual Report, Department for Transport, 2013
[4] National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, 2010. Review of effectiveness of laws limiting blood alcohol concentration levels to reduce alcohol-related road injuries and deaths, London: National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence
[5] ibid

Tags: Drink-Drive enforcement police winter drug-drive alcohol christmas drink