Drink driving in the UK - statistics and data

Drink driving in the UK - statistics and data
Drink driving in the UK ruins people’s lives – and Government data has shown that between 240 to 280 people a year are killed in vehicle collisions where a driver is over the limit.

Drink-driving collisions represents 17% of all deaths on the roads. Government statistics for 2021 (the latest public data) shows the number of incidents involving drink drivers is now at its highest level since 2009.

This guide looks at the statistics relating to drink driving in the UK.

Source: gov.co.uk

Drink-driving statistics

In 2021, the Government estimates that 6,740 people were killed or injured when at least one driver was over the drink-drive limit. This is a 4% increase from 6,450 in 2020.

When looking at fatality statistics, the prevalence of drink-driving in road deaths has fallen over time.

In 1979, 26% of road deaths occurred in collisions where at least one driver or rider was over the drink-drive limit. This fell to 15% by 1989.

According to Government data, the percentage of road deaths that are drink-drive related have since varied between 12% and 18%. In 2021 (latest data), the rate was 17%.

However, the central estimate of the number of killed or seriously injured drink-drive casualties in 2021 was 1,880 – representing an increase of 23% compared to 2020.

Source: gov.co.uk

Drink-driving data by country

When looking at the casualties caused by drink drivers, there are differences between England, Wales, and Scotland.

The latest data shows that the percentage of all casualties which occurred in drink-drive collisions was the highest in Wales at 7.3%.

This was followed by England at 5.2% and Scotland at 4.1%.

Analysing the regions of Great Britain, the highest casualty rates was in the East Midlands (7%).

The lowest rate was in London at 2.5%.

However, when analysing the data, it is important to note that Scotland has a lower drink-drive limit compared to the other UK nations (22mg per 100ml of breath or 50ml per 100ml of blood in Scotland vs 35mg in England and Wales).

Drink-driving by gender

When it comes to collisions involving alcohol, the data shows that 79% involved male drivers. Female drivers represent 20% of the data, with less than 1% of recorded collisions where gender is not listed.

Overall road collision data highlighted that 70% of collisions involved male drivers, compared to 30% of collisions involving women.

Source: gov.co.uk

Drink driving by age

Looking at the ages for drivers who are responsible for drink-driving collisions, six-in-10 (64%) were aged between 25 and 59.

This was followed by 24% for ages 16 to 24, and 8% for those aged over 60.

Source: gov.co.uk

Is drink driving on the rise?

The annual RAC Report on Motoring, the number of people who admit to driving while over the drink-drive limit in 2023 was 7%.

This is the same proportion as in 2022 – but this is an increase from the 6% recorded in 2021.

However, these figures are lower than in both 2018 and 2019, where 19% of those surveyed admitted to drinking and driving for two years in a row.

The report suggests the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have ‘resulted in permanent changes in attitudes to drink-driving’.

In the 2023 report, 20% of drivers admitted to being teetotal, and drivers under 25 are most likely to be non-drinkers (28%).

Of those who do drink alcohol, 56% never risk drinking and driving, either because they have a zero-alcohol policy when driving or because they do not drive to social functions.

A further third (33%) say they may drink at social occasions before driving home, but would have no more than one small drink – and would not drive while over the limit.

However, 13% say they would typically have at least one large alcoholic drink – such as a pint of beer or lager, or a large glass of wine or large measure of spirits – and then drive home.

Source: RAC (survey data of 2,937 drivers in 2023)

Drink driving in the UK by age

Those surveyed by the RAC were asked: ‘Thinking about times when you drive to go out with family, friends or for another social occasion where alcohol will be served, which of the following typically apply to you?’

Seventeen per cent of drivers aged 17-24 admit to having one small alcoholic beverage before driving at social events. This increases to 23% for those aged 65 and over.

Five per cent of younger drivers and 10% of those over 65 admit to having one large alcoholic drink at a social event before driving.

Concerningly, 3% of younger drivers admit to having two large alcoholic drinks – and 2% of older drivers – meaning that they are likely over the limit when behind the wheel.

According to the survey results, more younger drivers will decide to avoid any alcoholic beverage where they need to drive (24% vs 15%). 1And if they do, they will organise alternative transport options.

According to the RAC Report on Motoring 2023, drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs is the biggest motoring concern for 15% of those surveyed.

Source: RAC

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