Drink casualties on the rise

Data from the Department for Transport indicates that in 2015 1,380 people were killed or seriously injured in accidents where at least one driver was over the limit – up five per cent on the previous year.

There has also been a rise in drink drive casualties of all severities. The estimate for 2015 is 8,480 – a three per cent increase compared with 2014.

Police carried out over half a million (520,219) roadside breath tests in 2015, with more than 60,000 drivers (one in eight of those tested) failing or refusing to take the test.

The Road Safety Act of 1967 set the maximum limit at 80mg of alcohol per 100mL of blood (0.35mg of alcohol per litre of breath). It became an offence for the first time to drive, attempt to drive or be in charge of a motor vehicle with a blood or breath alcohol concentration exceeding that limit.

The 80mg per 100mL limit was based on evidence that a road accident is more likely to happen at or above this level. But more recent evidence shows that drivers are impaired below this limit.

With just 10mg per 100mL (one-eighth of the current English limit) you are 37% more likely to be involved in a fatal road accident than when sober. At the lower Scottish limit of 50mg per 100mL of blood you are five times more likely and at the current English limit you are 13 times more likely to be in a fatal crash.

‘It has now become socially unacceptable in most circles to drive whilst over the limit,’ said Hunter Abbott, advisor to the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety and managing director of self-test breathalyser firm AlcoSense Laboratories.

‘Most people now know that if they go out drinking, they leave the car keys at home, but there’s a wide misunderstanding about how long alcohol can stay in the system the morning after. Sleeping does not hit a ‘reset’ button. You process alcohol at the same rate whether you’re awake or asleep. The speed at which alcohol is eliminated varies considerably, influenced by factors such as size, health, metabolism and how much you have eaten.

‘So it’s easier than you think to unintentionally drink drive the next morning, or to drive unaware that there is still enough alcohol in your system to dramatically increase your chances of being in a fatal road accident. The only way to know you’re clear is either to abstain from alcohol completely or to use an accurate personal breathalyser such as the AlcoSense Excel, which gives detailed alcohol concentration readings.’