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By Mark Ellis
Government figures showed 290 people were killed in drink-drive accidents in 2012 – a rise of 25% on the 2011 death toll
Drink-drive deaths soared last year and a survey reveals today that one in five motorists have driven while high on drug.
The latest Government figures showed 290 people were killed in drink-drive accidents in 2012 – a rise of 25% on the 2011 death toll of 230.
The rise is seen as a blip as the 2011 figure was the lowest since records began in 1979, but transport ministers and motoring organisations said there was no room for complacency.
The 290 deaths represented 17% of all reported road fatalities and overall, the number of accidents involving drink-driving last year totalled 6,680 – fractionally down on the 2011 figure of 6,690.
Department for Transport figures also showed that those seriously injured in drink-drive accidents totalled 1,210 in 2012 – down from the total of 1,270 in 2011.
Slight injuries in drink-drive accidents totalled 8,500 last year -marginally up on the 8,420 figure in 2011.
Among those killed in drink-drive accidents, the majority (68%) were drivers and riders over the legal alcohol limit.
The remaining 32% were other road users, involved in the accident, but not necessarily over the legal limit themselves.
Meanwhile, a survey of 2,000 adults commissioned by car insurance comparison website Confused.com found that 19% admitted driving under the influence of stimulants – equivalent to seven million of Britain’s 38 million motorists not always in full control of their senses.
More than a third of those who admitted it took illegal substances including cannabis, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and amphetamines.
The remaining two-thirds took prescription medicines including morphine and anti-depressants or over-the-counter remedies like anti-histamines, which can cause drowsiness.
The alarming findings suggest the police are losing the war on drug driving – a view backed up by figures obtained under Freedom of Information legislation that shows the number of drivers convicted of drug driving fell by 12.5% last year.
However, the Department for Transport launched a consultation on the problem and highlights the difficulty in proving drug driving in court. Ministers propose a ‘near zero’ limits for eight controlled drugs.
Despite the rise in drink-drive deaths the annual fatality figure has come down considerably since the late 1970s and 1980s when figures of more than 1,400 deaths a year were recorded.
The annual death figure hovered around the 530 to 580 mark in the first years of the 21st century before dipping sharply over the period 2007 to 2011.
Transport officials pointed out that despite the big increase in deaths in 2012, the number of drink-drive fatalities was still around 25% lower than in 2009 and almost 40% lower than the 2005 to 2009 average.
Norman Baker, local transport minister, said: “Road deaths are thankfully at their lowest since records began in 1926 and the number of drink-drive related deaths has declined overall with 25% fewer deaths in 2012 than in 2009.
“These latest figures are provisional, but any road death is one too many and we are absolutely not complacent when it comes to road safety.
“That is why we are taking forward a package of measures to streamline enforcement against drink-driving, including approving portable evidential breath-testing equipment which will allow for more effective and efficient enforcement.”
And Edmund King, AA president, said: “Drink-driving is a menace to everyone on our roads and it is very disappointing to see that the estimated number of fatalities as a result of drunk drivers has increased.
“Behind every statistic is a personal tragedy that could have been avoided for these 290 people.
“We need to keep reinforcing the message that drinking and driving don’t mix.
“All drivers need to take heed of this and ensure that if they are going to be driving, that they adopt a zero tolerance approach and don’t drink anything alcoholic at all.
“If you are going to drive don’t drink and if you are going to drink, don’t drive.”