More than 8,000 motorists caught drink-driving twice in past five years

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More than 8,000 motorists have been caught drink-driving twice in the past five years.

Nearly 450 people were prosecuted three times, while two were caught on six occasions, according to DVLA data released in response to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request by the Press Association.

AA president Edmund King described the numbers as "astonishing" and suggested the process for returning licences after drink-drive bans had been served should be reviewed.

The figures relate to DR10 endorsements handed to drivers for driving or attempting to drive while above the legal alcohol limit.

:: This is how many times drivers received DR10 endorsements in Britain between 2011 and 2015:

One - 219,008 drivers

Two - 8,068 drivers

Three - 449 drivers

Four - 46 drivers

Five - Five drivers

Six - Two drivers

Motorists caught drink-driving face a ban of at least a year, an unlimited fine and in the most serious cases up to six months' imprisonment, although some are offered places on rehabilitation courses to reduce the length of their disqualification.

Mr King said: "The fact that more than 8,000 drivers have been caught twice in five years is all the more astonishing when they should have been off the road for a year or more.

"The repeat offender figures also suggest that a minority of drivers have a drink problem rather than a driving problem.

"Perhaps it is time to review some of the medical checks and rehabilitation courses before allowing these drivers back on the road."

A spokesman from road safety charity Brake said: "It is appalling that offenders are being allowed to continue driving after being caught drink-driving multiple times.

"These are individuals who clearly have no regard for the lives of others. They have been granted ample opportunity to change their behaviour and should face the full force of the law."

A drink-driver not deemed to be a high risk offender can apply to get their licence back once their ban is over by filling out a form, which includes questions about their medical condition.

The DVLA said it was duty bound to issue a licence when a driver had served their disqualification period, but it would investigate and take "appropriate action" if there was any indication of "an ongoing issue with alcohol".

High risk offenders - such as those caught drink-driving twice within 10 years or found to be at least two and a half times the legal alcohol limit - must pass an additional medical assessment which includes having blood tests, before a licence is returned.

The DVLA data shows the number of drink-drive convictions has fallen in recent years, from 53,885 in 2011 to 42,587 in 2015.

But Brake claims this demonstrates "a worrying lack of progress in drink-drive enforcement" and urged the Government to put "serious investment" into road policing to protect law-abiding people from "hard-core drunk drivers".

According to the RAC there was a 27% fall in the number of full-time dedicated roads policing officers in England and Wales (excluding London) between 2010 and 2015.

Provisional estimates from the Department for Transport (DfT) show that between 200 and 290 people were killed in drink-drive accidents on Britain's roads last year.

The figure has remained stable since 2010 following a sharp drop.

The DfT's annual campaign to highlight the dangers of getting behind the wheel after drinking at Christmas focused on young men this year, as it emerged 62% of drink-driver fatalities are males aged between 17 and 34.

The Scottish Government reduced the alcohol limit for drivers from 35 micrograms (mcg) to 22mcg in every 100 millilitres of breath in December 2014, but the legal level in England and Wales remains 35mcg.

A recent survey of 1,000 drivers by Brake and insurance firm Direct Line found that 78% think the limit is too high.

Figures obtained by the AA suggest that nearly two-thirds of drink-drivers arrested in the run-up to and during the past three Christmases were at least almost twice the alcohol limit.

FoI responses from 10 police forces in England revealed that from November to December in 2013, 2014 and 2015, some 64% of 5,621 drivers arrested after failing a breath test for alcohol registered at least 60mcg of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath.

Mr King said: "These people knowingly got behind the wheel when drunk."