February 14, 2020

Drink Driving Deaths And Other Outcomes In 2018

Drink Driving Deaths, An Ongoing Concern

In recently released figures from the Department for Transport, drink driving deaths in 2018 were estimated at 240, by coincidence, the same number from a decade ago.

The Legal Limit

The legal alcohol limit for drivers in Wales and England is 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. It can also be measured as 107 mg per 100 ml of urine, or 35 micrograms per 100 ml of breath.

This is actually the highest legal limit in the whole of Europe. However, if you are in Scotland, the limit is lower, matching most of the other countries in Europe, at 50 mg of alcohol in every 100 ml of blood. You can read our Drink Driving Guide for more information.

The Numbers

On top of 240 deaths involving alcohol, also concerning was that 2018 saw increases over 2017 in both the number of accidents (5,900 up 4%) and the casualties (8,700 up 1%) attributed to drink driving.

The solutions for drink driving

With the bleakest of the drink driver trends showing an increase, there have been a number of calls from the motoring industry and the public to make changes.

Reversal of police cuts

There are a lot of people that blame the cuts in the police force for the increase in drink driving related deaths. In 2018, there were 320,988 roadside breath tests carried out. This is significant because it is the lowest level since the data has been collected, and it represents a 5,000 test volume drop over 2017. In stark contrast, 2009 saw 670,023 breath tests conducted, coincidentally when the number of police officers in Wales and England was at its peak.

For those inclined to offend, there is an argument that being less likely to get caught could encourage risk taking.
drink driving

Revision of legal alcohol limits

There are campaigners that believe our drink-drive limit is too lenient and that we should move to zero-tolerance.

Research shows that the “limit” does make a significant difference. It has been concluded that drivers are 13 times more likely to be involved in a fatal incident if they are at the English limit, compared to being sober. Moreover, drivers are five times more likely to be in a fatal incident when at the English limit when compared with the drink-drive limit in Scotland.

The director of campaigns at Brake, the road safety charity, expressed his concerns regarding the current legal drink-drive limit in the United Kingdom. In 2019, Joshua Harris stated that the current limit gives people the idea that drinking is safe before driving. He said it is a dangerous message that creates a false impression. It is an impression that could not be further from the truth when there is research that states that safe driving can be impacted dramatically even by small amounts of alcohol. A zero-tolerance limit needs to be implemented according to Harris.


In car technology could be part of the answer too. The UK could take inspiration from France where alcolocks are used with known offenders whereby the driver needs to blow into a breathalyser before the vehicle’s engine will start.

Currently, UK drivers taking their vehicles to France are required to have disposable breathalysers in their cars, but there is an argument that if these were required in the UK too, drivers could test themselves if they weren’t sure.

And in the UK, it is also possible to buy an electronic, reusable breathalyser for a relatively small outlay (circa £20). For those that want to take responsibility for their own actions, investing in a device could save a lot of heartbreak later. The best time to use these kinds of device is the morning after a night spent drinking, when drivers might still be over the limit and not appreciate it.

For Fleets

For companies running fleets of vehicles, having a fleet policy that is very prescriptive when it comes to drink driving, or the use other substances that cause driver impairment, is essential. If you would like some advice on constructing a suitable policy then get in touch. The guide below is also a useful resource.

Drink Driving Guide