Nationally, drink driving incidents are decreasing over the years, we have included a table further down this page that shows this. Yet still, in 2017 alone, Brake.org.uk states that 250 people were killed in the UK as a result of drink driving.
As Drink Driving Insurance specialists, we are often keen to ask the public their opinion on drink driving in the UK. In June 2020 we conducted our own survey asking the general public their opinion on the legal drink driving limit. We asked 1000 people the following question and gave four possible answers to choose from;
Which of the following statements do you most agree with?
- The current drink driving alcohol limit should stay as it is
- The current drink driving alcohol limit should be reduced, but not to zero
- There should be a zero alcohol limit to drive in the UK
- The drink driving alcohol limit should be increased
Drink Driving Limits in the UK - Public Opinion
Drink drive limits are a contentious topic, with many lives having been affected by it either through convictions, or the untimely loss of someone they know due to it. We were interested in finding out just how many people consider the limits set by the UK Government to be correct.
The main results from our survey of 1000 people worked out as follows;
- The current drink drink driving alcohol limit should stay as it is - 37.90%
- There should be a zero alcohol limit to drive in the UK - 30.40%
- The current drink driving alcohol limit should be reduced, but not to zero - 22.50%
- The drink driving alcohol limit should be increased - 9.20%
The results of our survey shows that over half of people questioned, believe that there should be a decrease in the legal drink driving limit in some form, with 52.90% choosing one of the options to decrease the limit. Could more be done to decrease drink driving accidents in the UK? It appears as though there are huge numbers of people who are not happy with the current laws.
Other statistics drawn
We asked the public some more personal information including gender, age, region and whether or not they own and drive a car. The results can be broken down further.
- A higher percentage of women believe there should be a zero tolerance for alcohol to drive in the UK. 34% of women chose this option, only 26% of men chose this. Between the years of 2005 and 2015, women were only involved in around 19% of all drink driving convictions. This shows in the survey with more women wanting a zero tolerance to drink driving, there is statistically a bigger issue amongst men than women when it comes to drink driving.
- 47% of people surveyed from the North East believed that the drink drive limit should be reduced to zero. Statistically the North East is the region that has the least amount of drink driving incidents in the UK. Even with this being the case, a huge number of people from this area are still wanting to see a zero tolerance level for drink driving. This goes to show that the current laws have a long way to go, there is still a huge room for improvement.
- There is a correlation between age, and wanting the drink driving limit to increase. 12% of 16-24 years olds think the legal alcohol limit should be increased. 11% of 25-34 years agree with this, as do 10% of 35-44 year olds, 8% of 45-54 year olds, and only 6% of over 55’s think the limit should be increased. Statistically, it is young drivers that have been involved in the most drink driving accidents, and according to the survey we have conducted, it is also the young drivers who are more likely to want the drink drive limit increased. This is worrying, it is maybe down to a lack of experience, but maybe there should be more education available on the dangers of drink driving.
- 58% of people from Scotland believe that the drink drive limit should be reduced or set at zero. This is interesting because Scotland already has a lower drink drive limit than the rest of the UK, and still a huge percentage of the people surveyed do not think it is set low enough.
Drink Driving Statistics UK
The statistics surrounding drink driving in the UK will show that since records began in 1979, accidents involving drink driving have decreased dramatically, although it is still a problem. The chart below shows drink driving casualties in the UK by year.
One of the main reasons that accidents have fallen over the years would probably be due to stricter laws being administered. The survey we have conducted shows that there are a large number of people who still think like the legal drink driving limit should change in some way again.
At the moment the current drink driving limits in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are;
- 80 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood
- 107 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 milliliters of urine
- 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 milliliters of breath
In Scotland it is even lower than this, with it being;
- 50 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood
- 67 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 milliliters of urine
- 22 micrograms of alcohol per 100 milliliters of breath
Drink Driving Statistics in Summary
You can see from the chart above that there has been a continual decrease in the number of accidents due to drink driving. However, it does appear to have plateaued since around 2010. This may be due to no major changes happening in the law since 2010. The first drink driving legislation came into play in 1872 and we have continued to tighten restrictions as time went by, but do we need to tighten further? Let's have a look at the history of drink driving laws in the UK.
The History of Drink Driving Legislations in the UK
This first legislation for drink driving was not in reference to driving a car, as it became an offence to be intoxicated whilst being in charge of a horse, carriage, cattle or a steam engine. The punishment was a fine, no greater than 40 shillings. You could also face a prison sentence, no longer than one month.
It became an offence to be in charge of any mechanically propelled vehicle in a public place or a highway. The punishment would be a fine, no greater than £50 or a prison sentence no longer than 4 months. The person in question could also be disqualified from driving for a minimum of one year.
There was still no measurable limit to how much alcohol you could consume behind the wheel, but it did become an offence to be in charge of a motor vehicle while ‘Under the influence of drink or a drug to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the vehicle’
There were no new laws regarding drink driving but there was a change to the wording of the previous law to ‘unfit to drive through drink or drugs’ There was still no measurable legal limit.
This was the year where an actual measurable legal alcohol limit came into play. The limit was set at 80 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood. This limit has not changed to this day in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It was also announced this year that breathalysers will be phased in.
After years of testing beforehand, breath testing was finally being used. To this day, breath testing is still the main way of convicting people of drink driving.
A new offence was introduced as you could now be punished with a prison sentence of up to 5 years for ‘causing death by driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs’
If you were convicted of causing death by driving and being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you would now have to pass an extended test before you were able to legally drive again.
A major government review was carried out, proposing reducing the legal drink driving limit to 50 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood, which has now been implemented in Scotland. The possibility of permanent disqualification for repeat offenders was also discussed.
Drink Driving Convictions UK
The number of people being convicted of driving or attempting to drive whilst over the legal alcohol limit is also decreasing as the years go on. The statistics below, are from drinkdriving.org, and they show the decrease in convictions between 2005 - 2015;
|Year||Convictions (Total)||Convictions (Male)||Convictions (Female)|
The average convictions during the years of 2005-2014 was 61,946. This shows that the convictions in 2015 are well below the average of the previous 9 years.
Of all the the convictions mentioned above, the following is the breakdown of the punishments handed out;
- 76% of people were given a fine*
- 16% of people were handed a community order
- 3% of people received a suspended sentence**
- 2% of people were sentenced to immediate custody**
- 0.5% of people received a conditional discharge
- 0.2% of people were given an absolute discharge
*This could be between £25 and £5,000. The majority were given between £100 - £150
*Prison sentences ranged from up anywhere within a year. The majority were given a sentence of less than 3 months.
In conclusion, it appears as though there are improvements being made to decrease drink driving incidents, and they have been working, but it is not enough. There are still far too many injuries and deaths occurring every year due to drink driving. The survey we conducted shows that there are plenty of people that believe more should be done in regards to lowering the drink driving limit. Maybe there should be more education on the subject, as there are a huge number of young drivers who would like to see the drink driving limit increased, when young drivers make up a big percentage of the drink driving accidents. Maybe we have not seen the last time stricter measures were taken in regards to the laws on drink driving.
Drink driving is not the only problem on UK roads. Take a look at our drug driving statistics piece.