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15% of UK road deaths caused by drunk drivers

Latest figures published by the Department for Transport suggest drunk drivers accounted for 15% of road deaths

A Department for Transport (DfT) report says that drunk drivers are responsible for 15% of road deaths in the UK, and there are suggestions that this figure could in fact be even higher.

This government report of road casualties in 2020 (the latest data available) estimates that road deaths and injuries caused by drink-driving incidents reached a total of 6,480, with between 200 and 240 of these being fatal.

While this indicates that drink driving is still clearly an issue in Britain, the report concludes that these statistics are broadly in line with the last few years.

Fatalities in reported drink-drive collisions, 2010 to 2020

Source: UK Department for Transport (DfT)

The 2020 data display a 17% reduction in drunk-driving injury and death when compared to the 2019 stats, although this is not surprising.

“The fall in overall drink drive casualties needs to be viewed in the context of Covid”, comments Hunter Abbott, managing director of breathalyser firm AlcoSense. The Coronavirus pandemic caused traffic levels to shrink by around a quarter in 2020, perhaps explaining the decrease in fatalities.

While the latest government figures indicate that 15% of UK road deaths are caused by drunk drivers according to the road laws, Abbott suggests that this percentage could be higher in real terms.

“What these figures don’t tell you is how many more casualties were caused by ‘lethal but legal’ drivers – those who were above the point of intoxication where effects on cognitive function occur, but below the official drink-drive limit.”

While European countries such as Ireland, Germany and Spain have a drink drive limit of 0.05% blood alcohol limit (BAC) in place, the limit in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is 0.08% BAC, which is the highest in Europe – and one of the highest in the world.

Percentage of casualties occurring in drink-drive collisions by country and English region, 2020

Source: UK Department for Transport (DfT)

The report also breaks down these drink-drive collision casualties by region, displaying that Wales has the highest frequency of drunk driving casualties when compared to other home nations. Scotland conversely has the lowest percentage of drunk driving injury and death – where the limit is a stricter 0.05% BAC.

In England, the East Midlands has the highest percentage of casualties, while Greater London has the lowest.

Casualties in drink-drive collisions and all reported collisions by age group, 2020

Source: UK Department for Transport (DfT)

Looking at the age of offending drink-drivers, the report concludes that 65% of the drunk drivers that caused road injuries and deaths in 2020 were aged between 25 and 59 years old, while underage illegal drivers who were 15 years old or younger accounted for 4% of these casualties.

The 2020 figures also report that 78% of these drunk drivers were male.

While these figures do make for grim reading, and highlight that drink driving is still an issue, these types of collisions are down 79% compared to 1979 – suggesting that some government drink-drive initiatives have been effective over the years.

Sean Rees
Sean Rees
Sean is a content editor at The Car Expert. A enthusiastic fan of motorsport and all things automotive, he is accredited by the Professional Publishers Association, and is now focused on helping those in car-buying need with independent and impartial advice.
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