Number of breath tests will DOUBLE in December

Gavin Braithwaite-Smith
·3-min read
Motorists support in-car breathalysers
Motorists support in-car breathalysers

Drivers are twice as likely to be breath-tested in December than in any other month. This is according to new analysis of Home Office data.

Many adults are drinking more since the coronavirus pandemic began. The Royal College of Psychiatrists estimates that in June, more than 8.4m people in England were drinking at higher-risk levels, up from 4.8m in February. Home drinking means many drivers could be unaware they’re over the legal limit for alcohol.

In December 2019, nearly 49,000 motorists were stopped on suspicion of drink-driving. The average for the other 11 months across England and Wales was 23,043.

There are significant regional variations. In North Wales, nearly 4,000 drivers were breathalysed in December 2019. In Wiltshire, the figure was just 31.

reporting family member drink-driving
reporting family member drink-driving

In Northamptonshire, the county with the highest number of tests in England (2,957), the failure rate was two percent. In Cambridgeshire, nearly a third (30 percent) of the drivers tested were over the legal limit.

There are strict alcohol limits for drivers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with even stricter limits in Scotland:

  • Micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath: England (35), Scotland (22)

  • Milligrammes per 100 millilitres of blood: England (80), Scotland (50)

  • Milligrammes per 100 millilitres of urine: England (107), Scotland (67)

Motorists face severe penalties if found guilty of drink-driving. A fine, driving ban and a prison sentence are possible, with the actual penalty decided by the magistrates who hear the case. Being in charge of a vehicle while above the legal limit could result in three months’ imprisonment, a fine of up to £2,500 and a possible driving ban.

Causing death by careless driving carries a prison sentence of up to 14 years, an unlimited fine, a ban from driving for at least two years, and an extended driving test before a licence is returned.

Young men are heavily over-represented in drink-drive related accidents. In 2016, 280 men aged 16-24 were killed or seriously injured due to drink-driving in Great Britain.

‘Rise in at-home drinking’

coronavirus lockdown could cause more drink driving
coronavirus lockdown could cause more drink driving

“We might be going to fewer Christmas parties this year, but several studies show that people have been drinking more alcohol during lockdown,” said Hunter Abbott, MD of AlcoSense Laboratories.

“The increase has been driven by job uncertainty and pandemic anxiety, fuelled by the rise in at-home drinking where measures are more generous than a pub or restaurant.

“This trend makes it more likely that people may get behind the wheel and drive with alcohol still in their system the next morning. Even a small amount of alcohol slows reaction time, inhibits judgement and reduces concentration – increasing the likelihood of accidents.

“One in five drink-drive convictions are in the morning, but using a personal breathalyser takes the guesswork out of knowing when alcohol has cleared the morning after the night before.”

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