Britain still struggling to break the drink drive habit

Thursday 6 August 2015

Brake, the road safety charity 

Brake, the road safety charity, has reiterated its call for a zero-tolerance drink drive limit, in response to government figures showing Britain is still failing to adequately tackle its drink drive problem. A final estimate shows 240 people were killed by drivers over the legal drink drive limit in 2013, while provisional estimates suggest at least that number were killed again in 2014.

However, the number of people seriously injured in drink drive crashes did fall by 8% to 1,100 from 2012 to 2013, with drink drive casualties of all severities down 17% to 8,270 in the same period. Brake has cautiously welcomed this news.

The figures show that the profile of Britain’s illegal drink drivers has remained largely the same:

  • Three quarters (74%) of those killed and seriously injured are male.
  • More than three in ten (31%) drivers killed aged 25 to 39 are over the drink drive limit – the highest of any age group.
  • A quarter of drink drive deaths and serious injuries result from crashes where a young driver (17-24 years old) was over the limit.

Brake is highlighting international evidence showing that lower drink drive limits and increased enforcement help to bring down drink drive crashes [1] [2] [3]. 

Meanwhile, provisional figures for the year ending March 2015 have again shown little progress in overall road casualty reduction, with casualties of all severities down 2% to 186,060 – too small a fall to be statistically significant. Brake advocates the reintroduction of ambitious casualty reduction targets to stimulate meaningful progress, and is calling on the government to adopt a ‘vision zero’ approach.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, said: “While the overall reduction in drink drive casualties is encouraging, it is sad and disappointing to learn that the number of deaths has remained the same – as it has approximately since the government axed road casualty reduction targets in 2010. Education on drink driving is important, but it can only achieve so much. It seems we have reached a point where further meaningful reductions in devastating and needless drink drive deaths and serious injuries require more decisive action. Brake is calling for a zero-tolerance drink drive limit and greater priority and resourcing for traffic policing: evidenced steps we’re confident would help tackle this menace. Scotland has already seen promising signs of reducing drink drive rates after lowering its limit. In this context, it is unacceptable for the Westminster government to maintain the highest drink drive limit in Europe.”

Brake campaigns for an effective zero-tolerance drink drive limit of 20mg alcohol per 100ml blood, through its not a drop, not a drag campaign. Tweet us: @Brakecharity, #notadrop.


Brake is a national road safety charity that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies. We do this through national campaignscommunity education, services for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.

Brake was founded in the UK in 1995, and now has domestic operations in the UK and New Zealand, and works globally to promote action on road safety.

Follow Brake on TwitterFacebook, or The Brake Blog.

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] When Sweden lowered its drink-drive limit from 50mg to 20mg per 100ml of blood, drink-drive deaths fell by 10%. The Globe 2003 issue 2, Institute of Alcohol Studies, 2003

[2] The effectiveness of reducing illegal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits for driving: Evidence for lowering the limit to .05 BAC, Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, 2005

[3] The impact of implementing random breath testing on criminal justice system resources, MADD, 2012