Drink-drivers getting away with it, say campaigners
As the party season begins, experts fear drop in the number of breath tests will lead to more casualties
BREATH tests for alcohol have fallen by a quarter over five years, figures show, as campaigners warn that drunk drivers are getting away with it. Campaigners said that overall deaths as a result of drink-driving had remained static as the number of breath tests dropped, proving a hard core of drink drivers are ignoring the social stigma.
John Scruby, a campaigner against drink driving and a former traffic officer, said that such offenders would continue to drink and drive unless the law was better enforced.
“It’s the same with mobile phones,” he said. “Certain people think they’ve become immune, but they haven’t.”
Christmas is a peak time for drinkdrive offences. Last week police said that during the 2016 campaign they stopped more than 100,000 vehicles, with 5,698 positive, failed or refused breath tests.
After years of declining deaths as a result of anti-drink campaigns, the figure stalled at 240 between 2010 and 2014, leading to fears that the crime’s social unacceptability was waning. In 2015, the most recent figures available, there was a drop to 200, but a spokesman for the parliamentary advisory council for transport safety said the overall numbers were too low for this to be seen as a definitive reduction.
Official figures from the Department for Transport show that casualties from drunken driving increased between 2014 and 2015, from 8,210 to 8,470.
“We are worried people are becoming more relaxed and blasé about drink driving because they think there are fewer police out there,” he said.
A report by the Institute of Alcohol Studies argues that alcohol limits should be lowered to prevent more people being killed on the roads. In the UK the limit is 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, but this should be lowered to 50 milligrams, the authors say.
Data obtained from an FOI request sent to police forces in England, showed that the number of breath tests made by police fell from 606,411 in 2011 to 456,736 in 2015.
The report added that traffic patrols had been particularly affected by police cuts, with many forces reporting a drop in the number of officers policing our roads. Earlier this year, the AA said older people were more likely to drink and drive because they believed they possessed the skills to be able to drive safely under the influence, which was why the number of convicted over-65s rose from 1,295 in 2005 to 1,435 in 2015.
A spokesman said: “They have developed bad habits, probably got away with it in the past and believe they can drive when half-cut.”
A Government spokesman said: “Figures show that deaths as a result of drink driving on British roads are at a record low.”