Drink driving has risen by 8% since June 2010, according to new figures published by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). UK police forces tested 88,629 drivers in June 2011 as part of an annual drink drive campaign.
Amongst drivers aged under 25, the increase was 15%, suggesting that cuts in government funding for anti-drink drive campaigns – often aimed at young drivers – are having a dangerous impact on the behaviour and attitudes of these drivers.
Collisions were were up, too; police recorded 16% more collisions in June 2011 than in the same month last year. Unsurprisingly, breath tests of drivers involved in collisions revealed an 11% rise in positive results – highlighting the well-proven link between drink driving and collisions.
Drivers reading about the UK’s drink driving limit may be confused when they see it expressed in different ways. To avoid any confusion, the UK alcohol limit for driving can be expressed in three ways, all of them equivalent:
- 35μg (microgrammes) per 100 millilitres of breath – this is the measure used by police breathalysers
- 80mg (milligrammes) per 100 millilitres of blood
- 0.08% blood alcohol level
UK drivers should be aware that we already have one of the highest alcohol limits in the western world. The UK’s 0.08% blood alcohol limit is 60% higher than the 0.05% limit used in most European countries and much higher still than the 0.02% used in some countries.
If you are planning on driving abroad, make sure you know the limit for the country you are visiting. Better still, drink nothing if you are driving the same day or early the next morning. Click here for The AA’s country-specific driving guides.
Government Cuts Will Prove Expensive
The government has cut spending on anti-drink driving campaigns from £3.4 million in the 2009/10 tax year to just £550,000 in the current tax year. This appears to be having a predictable and dangerous effect on drivers’ habits, particularly those of young drivers, who are one of the primary targets of road safety education campaigns.
It seems likely to me that the cost of these cuts in terms of ruined lives, emergency service callouts and lost business productivity will be far higher than a few million quid saved. If a generation of young drivers grows up now with an increased acceptance of drink driving, the cost and difficulty of reversing that will be very much harder than it needs to be.
We will have to hope that the police ruthlessly enforce existing drink driving laws – but even here the shadow of cutbacks seems to have fallen. Why else did the police stop 12% fewer people during their annual summer campaign this year than they did last year? Drink driving enforcement needs an element of random testing to be effective – it is not enough for the police and government ministers to claim they are getting better at targeting the right people.