Drink-drive deaths soar by 25%

Drink drivingThe number of deaths in drink-drive accidents soared last year, according to provisional Government figures.

An estimated 290 people were killed in drink-drive accidents in Britain in 2012 - around 25% more than the figure of 230 in 2011, the Department for Transport (DfT) said today.

The 2012 figures were made worse by the fact that the 2011 total was the lowest since records began in 1979.

The 2012 figures showed that the 290 deaths represented 17% of all reported road fatalities.
There were 250 drink-drive accidents which resulted in deaths in 2012, compared with 220 in 2011. Overall, the number of accidents involving drink-driving last year totalled 6,680 - fractionally down on the 2011 figure of 6,690.

The DfT figures also showed that those seriously injured in drink-drive accidents totalled 1,210 in 2012 - down from the total of 1,270 in 2011.

Slight injuries in drink-drive accidents totalled 8,500 last year - slightly up on the 8,420 figure in 2011.

Among those killed in drink-drive accidents, the majority (68%) were drivers and riders over the legal alcohol limit. The remaining 32% were other road users, involved in the accident but not necessarily over the legal limit themselves.

Although the death toll from last year rose significantly, the annual fatality figure has come down considerably since the late 1970s and 1980s when figures of more than 1,400 deaths a year were recorded.

The annual death figure hovered around the 530 to 580 mark in the first years of the 21st century before dipping sharply over the period 2007 to 2011.

The DfT pointed out that despite the big increase in deaths in 2012, the number of drink-drive fatalities was still around 25% lower than in 2009 and almost 40% lower than the 2005 to 2009 average.

The number of seriously injured drink-drive casualties for 2012 was around 30% lower than for the 2005-09 average.

The department also published today provisional road casualty figures for all types of accidents in the first three months of 2013 - a period including the coldest March for 50 years.

The DfT statistics showed that 340 people were killed in reported road accidents in Britain in the period January-March 2013 - a drop of 18% on the same period in 2012.

Serious injuries in the first three months of this year were down 19%, with slight injuries decreasing 14%. Motorcyclist, pedal cyclist and pedestrian deaths and serious injuries fell sharply.

The DfT said that it was likely that the cold weather contributed to the dip in casualties.

The January to March 2013 figures, albeit provisional, took the total number of deaths in the 12 months ending March 2013 to 1,680 - a 10% drop on the 1,870 figure for the 12 months ending March 2012.

Local Transport Minister Norman Baker said: "Road deaths are thankfully at their lowest since records began in 1926 and the number of drink-drive related deaths has declined overall with 25% fewer deaths in 2012 than in 2009. These latest figures are provisional, but any road death is one too many and we are absolutely not complacent when it comes to road safety.

"That is why we are taking forward a package of measures to streamline enforcement against drink-driving, including approving portable evidential breath-testing equipment which will allow for more effective and efficient enforcement."

Commenting on the road death figures for the first part of this year, Institute of Advanced Motorists director of policy and research Neil Greig said: "It would seem to be good news with continued sustained falls in car occupant casualties and falls in all vulnerable categories for example pedestrians, bikers and cyclists."

"It is clear that the continued economic downturn (with falling traffic levels) and poor weather are the main causes. The economy is showing signs of improvement and we are having a fantastic summer so we cannot be complacent."

AA president Edmund King said: "Drink-driving is a menace to everyone on our roads and it is very disappointing to see that the estimated number of fatalities as a result of drunk drivers has increased. Behind every statistic is a personal tragedy that could have been avoided for these 290 people.

"We need to keep reinforcing the message that drinking and driving don't mix. All drivers need to take heed of this and ensure that if they are going to be driving, that they adopt a zero tolerance approach and don't drink anything alcoholic at all. If you are going to drive don't drink and if you are going to drink, don't drive."

RAC technical director David Bizley said: "These (drink-drive) statistics make for rather depressing reading.

"Despite the longer term reduction in the number of people killed by drink driving-related incidents, the sharp rise in 2012 when compared to the previous year is a cause for concern.

"Clearly more needs to be done to ensure that the anti drink-driving message pioneered by the Government's THINK! campaign really sticks with motorists up and down the country."

Kevin Clinton, head of road safety for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said: "The increase in drink-drive deaths in 2012 is very disturbing.

"The figures show that the problem of drinking and driving has not been solved, with tens of thousands of people being convicted of drink-driving, hundreds losing their lives and thousands being injured every year. Often it is an innocent person who suffers, not just the driver who was over the drink-drive limit.

"A lower drink-drive limit would save many lives each year, while effective enforcement of the drink-drive law is essential."

He went on: "Today's figures are provisional and the final ones may be different. The provisional figure for 2011 was 280 drink-drive deaths, but the final figure was 230. So, it is possible that the actual figure for 2012 will be lower than the 290 deaths reported today.

"But even if the final figures are lower than the provisional ones, continued education and enforcement campaigns are needed to keep pressing home the don't-drink-and-drive message."