The charity Brake has welcomed police efforts to catch drunk and drug drivers over the Christmas period, but renewed its calls for action from the government and public to stamp out this deadly menace.
Statistics out today from the Association of Chief Police Officers reveal 7,123 drivers were caught risking lives by driving over the limit during the month-long December enforcement campaign across England and Wales, approximately the same as the number as last year. Significantly more drivers were breath tested than in 2011: 175,000, compared to 157,000 last year, and Brake has welcomed this increased activities as an important deterrent to potentially deadly law-breaking. A major focus of the campaign was tackling drink driving among young drivers, who are more likely to fail a breath test: 5.27% of under-25s stopped by police failed or refused a breath a test during the campaign, compared to 3.39% of drivers age 25+.
During the campaign there were also 360 Field Impairment Tests for drug driving, with 21% of these resulting in arrest. Read more results.
Brake praised police for this life-saving enforcement activity, but warned that severe cut-backs put this work in jeopardy . Brake is urging the government to give greater priority to traffic policing and stem damaging reductions in this vital area of frontline policing. Brake is also renewing calls for a zero tolerance drink drive limit of 20mg, given evidence that lower limits mean fewer devastating casualties . See calls for action below.
Brake is also appealing to drivers everywhere to make a new year’s resolution to never drive after drinking any alcohol or taking any drugs – not a drop, not a drag. See advice for drivers below.
Read about Brake’s Not a drop, not a drag campaign.
Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive at Brake, the road safety charity, said: “It’s shocking so many drivers are willing to put themselves and others in such great danger by drinking and driving over the festive period – many of them young and inexperienced. The police do an incredible job taking these risky drivers off our roads and deterring would-be offenders from taking chances with people’s lives. This work results in fewer people needlessly losing lives or suffering appalling injuries, and fewer families dealing with the terrible aftermath of a crash. But this work is in jeopardy, and it’s desperately important the government acts now to stem potentially catastrophic cut-backs in roads policing, as well as adopting a zero tolerance drink drive limit. We need to send a clear message that it should be none for the road, and drink driving will not be tolerated.
“We are also urging drivers of all ages to make a positive new year’s resolution that’s about protecting yourself and others on the roads. Pledge to not drink any alcohol, or take any drugs, before driving: not a drop, not a drag.”
In 2011, one in seven road deaths in Great Britain involved drink drivers over the current 80mg limit. 280 deaths and 1,290 serious injuries occurred when someone was over the drink drive limit . Many more drink-drive crashes are caused by drivers who only have small amounts of alcohol in their blood. A further estimated 65 deaths per year are caused by drivers who are under the drink-drive limit, but who have a significant amount of alcohol in their blood over 50mg .
Research shows even very small amounts of alcohol, well under the current UK limit, significantly increase reaction times and therefore your risk of crashing . With a level of 20-50mg of alcohol per 100ml blood, drivers have at least a three times greater risk of dying in a crash than those with no alcohol in their blood. This increases to at least six times with an alcohol level of 50-80mg, and 11 times with 80-100mg .
There is no effective way to estimate the level of alcohol in your blood by counting the units of alcohol you drink, as alcohol is absorbed at different rates depending on factors including: height, weight, tiredness, stress levels, and how much and how recently you have eaten. The only way to ensure you’re safe to drive is to not drink any alcohol.
However, to help avoid ‘morning after drink driving’, as a guide, you can work out the time it takes to sober up by counting units consumed, and, starting from one hour after finishing drinking, adding an hour for each unit. This means that if you drink four pints of 4.5% larger, at 2.6 units each, and finish drinking at 11.00pm, you should avoid driving until at least 10.15am the next morning.
Brake calls for a zero tolerance limit of 20mg alcohol per 100ml of breath, to send a clear message to drivers that it should be none for the road. This allows for naturally occurring alcohol in the body, and is a limit set by numerous other countries including Sweden, Poland and Greece. The EU recommends a limit of no more than 50mg, and within Europe only Malta shares the UK’s limit of 80mg alcohol. Governments in Scotland and Northern Ireland have announced their intentions to reduce drink drive limits to 50mg alcohol per 100ml blood. In Northern Ireland, newly qualified drivers and commercial drivers will have a zero tolerance limit of 20mg.
Evidence is clear that even very small amounts of alcohol, under 50mg, substantially increase crash risk  and lowering limits has reduced casualties in other countries . Surveys show the public are confused about what is safe in relation to drink driving, with many believing that one or two drinks is safe . Brake believes a zero tolerance limit would help to eliminate confusion.
At the same time, Brake is in support of government plans to introduce a new law on drug driving, making it an offence to drive with impairing illegal drugs in the body, and bring in roadside drug screening equipment. These changes, expected to come into force in mid 2014, will help police to catch, prosecute and deter drug drivers.
Brake also calls on government to give greater priority to traffic policing, to help ensure there are greater numbers of police enforcing drink and drug driving laws.