The number of people killed in drink-driving incidents has risen to an eight-year high, according to government data.
The latest Department for Transport figures for Great Britain show that the number of fatalities in incidents where at least one driver was over the drink-drive limit rose to 250 in 2017.
That is a nine per cent increase on 2016’s 230 deaths and the highest number since 2009 when 340 people died.
The number of serious injuries also increased by just over 10 per cent, from 1,250 to 1,380.
The increases comes as police figures reveal that there were 56,000 fewer roadside breath tests carried out in 2017 than in 2016.
The rise in deaths has prompted calls to invest in better enforcement and cut the drink-drive limit, with some campaigners demanding a zero-tolerance limit.
‘Direct link to police cuts’
Hunter Abbott, member of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety and managing director of breathalyser firm AlcoSense said the latest figures showed the damaging impact police cuts were having on road safety.
He commented: “Police carried out just 325,000 roadside breath tests in England and Wales in 2017 – a fall of 15 per over the previous year and the lowest level since this data has been collected
“The number of road traffic officers also decreased by 30 per cent between 2007 and 2017.
“There’s a direct link between cuts in police budgets and increased drink drive deaths.
“Together with the highest drink drive limit in the developed world, it’s a lethal cocktail.
“A two-pronged strategy of better enforcement, plus a drink drive limit across the UK in line with the rest of Europe, could save many lives each year.”
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland the drink-drive limit is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, while in Scotland and most of mainland Europe it is 50mg/100ml blood.
The RAC’s head of policy, Nicholas Lyes, said: “These figures are disappointing and show that much more needs to be done to eradicate the scourge of drink-driving.
“The data shows that no discernible progress has been made for nine years in reducing the number of people killed in road traffic collisions where at least one driver was over the legal drink-drive limit.
“The Government should be looking closely at all its options, even reviewing the drink-drive limit. But ultimately, it is absolutely vital that we have police enforcing laws and increasing roadside breathalyser testing so that law breakers know they will be caught.”
Joshua Harris, director of campaigns at road safety charity Brake, added: “The fact that the number of people estimated to have been killed in drink-drive-related crashes has increased to the highest level since 2009 is incredibly concerning.
“Couple these figures with the shocking fact that thousands of drivers have been caught drink driving on two or more occasions over the past four years, it begs the question, how much longer must this continue before the Government acts?
“The current drink-driving limit gives a false impression that it is safe to drink and drive – this is a dangerous message and one that couldn’t be further from the truth. Research has shown even very small amounts of alcohol dramatically affect safe driving.
“The Government must act now to tackle the blight of drink driving by implementing a zero-tolerance limit, making clear to drivers that not a drop of alcohol is safe.”
While fatalities and serious injuries rose in 2017, the overall number of casualties in drink-drive incidents fell by five per cent to 8,600 – a return to the level in 2015 after a rise in 2016.
The total number of drink-drive-related collisions fell by six per cent to 5,700, also reverting to a similar level to 2015.