PACTS COMMENTS ON 2009 PROVISIONAL ESTIMATES FOR ROAD ACCIDENTS INVOLVING ILLEGAL ALCOHOL LEVELS

FOR IMMEDIATE USE                                                                                                                 AUGUST 5TH 2010

PACTS COMMENTS ON 2009 PROVISIONAL ESTIMATES FOR ROAD ACCIDENTS INVOLVING ILLEGAL ALCOHOL LEVELS

The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety today observes that the provisional numbers of road deaths involving illegal alcohol levels in 2009 are lower than in 2008 despite the number of accidents involving illegal alcohol levels remaining unchanged. Commenting on the provisional results, Eleanor Besley, Policy and Research Officer at PACTS, said:

“It is reassuring to see a 5 per cent fall in the number of deaths and more than an 8 per cent reduction in the number of serious injuries in collisions involving illegal alcohol levels, particularly as this year’s figures show a consistency with the overall trend of important reductions in death and injury on British roads.

The steady decrease since 2002 in numbers seriously injured in collisions involving illegal alcohol levels has continued for another year. A third successive year with around 400 deaths in collisions involving illegal alcohol levels confirms that such deaths are now clearly fewer than the numbers in the 500s that prevailed for a decade previously.

However, these deaths fell by only 2.5 per cent between 2007 and 2008 (final figures) and only 5 per cent between 2008 and 2009 (provisional figure), whereas the corresponding falls in all road deaths were 14 per cent and 12 per cent. Road deaths involving illegal alcohol levels had levelled earlier in the decade at around 18 per cent of all road deaths. The large reduction in alcohol-related deaths in 2007 brought the percentage down to 14, but the small reductions in the last two years mean that illegal levels of alcohol featured in an estimated 17 per cent of all road deaths in 2009. So deaths related to illegal drink driving once again represent a rising proportion of all road deaths.

This rising proportion reinforces the importance of acting promptly and positively on the recommendations made in Sir Peter North’s recently published report which recommended, among other things, a reduction in the current prescribed blood alcohol limit in section 11(2) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 of 80 mg of alcohol in 100 ml of blood to 50 mg of alcohol in 100 ml of blood and the equivalent amounts in breath and urine. Today’s figures highlight the significance of such a move. Sir Peter quotes estimates suggesting that his recommendation could save between at least 43 and around 168 lives in the first year and that this number could be higher in subsequent years.

The total value of prevention of the estimated number of road deaths and serious injuries involving illegal alcohol levels in 2009, without allowing for the under-reporting of accidents, was over £1 billion.

Driving above the current BAC limit continues to contribute to nearly 400 deaths per year, yet alcohol increases risks more widely, influencing those people driving within the current BAC limit but under the influence of alcohol to contribute to about another 200 deaths and an important number of injuries each year.

It is hoped that the evidence received during the forthcoming Transport Select Committee enquiry into drink and drug driving law will further emphasize the importance of reducing the BAC limit as part of a wider public health approach to improving road safety.

The provisional figures published today underline the significant relationship between drink-drive and road death. It is vital that the government prioritizes a commitment to reducing levels of drinking and driving and thus levels of alcohol-related road death and injury as part of a wider commitment to improving road safety beyond 2010. There is still a great deal to be done.”

ENDS

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