The Department for Transport provisional estimates show that between 240 and 320 people were killed in road crashes in Great Britain, in 2019, where at least one driver was over the drink-drive limit, with a central estimate of 280 deaths. This provisional estimate of fatalities for 2019 is the highest since 2009.

The data also shows that an estimated 7,860 people were killed or injured when at least one driver was over the drink-drive limit, in 2019, representing a fall of 9% from 8,680 in 2018 and the lowest level recorded. However, when looking at deaths and serious injuries, the adjusted central estimate for drink-drive casualties in 2019 is 2,110, an increase of 11% on 2018 and the highest level recorded since 2011.

Brake, the road safety charity, is calling for urgent Government action on drink-driving, highlighting that England and Wales now have the highest drink-drive limit in Europe, at 80mg alcohol per 100ml blood, compared with the norm of 50mg, as has been implemented in Scotland since December 2014.

The road safety campaigners state that the evidence is clear that any amount of alcohol impairs driving and so a zero-tolerance limit must be implemented to protect road-users. Such a limit would effectively ban drink-driving but have leeway in the regulation to allow for accidental exposure, such as through mouthwash.

Commenting, Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for Brake said: ““The reported increase in drink-driving deaths is clearly cause for concern, with the estimated annual deaths now the highest for over a decade.

“Despite a supposedly proud road safety record, improvement on UK roads is stagnating and in need of a jump-start. The Government must urgently review and reduce the drink-drive limit in England and Wales, which now has the dubious honour of being the highest in Europe, to help stop the rot on drink-driving.

“Every road death is preventable, but these tragedies will only be prevented if the Government follows the evidence in its policy and investment decisions. This starts with reintroducing road casualty reduction targets, aiming for zero deaths and serious injuries, and implementing a zero-tolerance drink-drive limit. The safety of road users must always come first”

Reported road casualties in Great Britain, provisional estimates involving illegal alcohol levels: 2019, Department for Transport 2021.