Drink drive deaths at highest level since 2009

Drink drive deaths at highest level since 2009

Provisional estimates for 2017 show that between 240 and 330 people were killed in accidents in Great Britain where at least one driver was over the drink-drive limit, with a central estimate of 290 deaths.

The provisional estimate of fatalities for 2017 is the highest since 2009. However, the rise is not considered statistically significant. An estimated 8,660 people were killed or injured when at least one driver was over the drink-drive limit. This represents a reduction of 4% from 9,040 in 2016 and is reverting to a similar level to 2015. The total number of accidents where at least one driver was over the alcohol limit fell by 6% to 5,730 in 2017.

Figures are derived from the STATS19 forms completed by the police plus toxicology data for road fatalities from coroners and procurators fiscal. Final 2017 estimates, based on more complete data, will be published in August 2019.

The provisional central estimate of the number of deaths in accidents with at least one driver over the alcohol limit for 2017 is 290. This represents about 16% of all deaths in reported road accidents in 2017. The central estimate for 2017 is higher than the final figure for 2016, but the increase is not statistically significant. The 95% confidence range indicates that statisticians are 95% certain that the true figure, as opposed to the estimate, falls somewhere between 240 and 330 fatalities.

Evaluation of changes to the drink-drive limit

On 5 December 2014, Scotland reduced the legal BAC limit for all drivers from 80mg/100ml of blood to 50mg/100ml. The drink drive limit introduced by the 1967 Act remains in place for England and Wales today.

An independent evaluation of the impact of the limit reduction in Scotland led by the University of Glasgow was published in the Lancet on 12 December 2018. This evaluation took advantage of the natural experiment created by the lowering of the legal blood alcohol limit in Scotland only and compared data on weekly road traffic accident rates and alcohol consumption (of and on sales data) between Scotland (the intervention group) and England and Wales (the control group). The study found that lowering the drink-drive limit was not associated with any reduction in total accident rates or serious and fatal accident rates, but that the change was associated with a small reduction in per-capita alcohol consumption from on trade alcohol sales.