Drink-driving breath test statistics – by police area and gender (PACTS briefing, December 2014)

Drink-driving breath test statistics – by police area and gender (PACTS briefing, December 2014)

There have been a number of recent developments on drink driving. This briefing note brings together some statistics on the levels of breath testing by police force area and analysis by gender. It also provides links to the detailed results of digital breath tests carried out by police.

  • On Friday 5 December 2014, the drink-drive (blood alcohol content) limit in Scotland was reduced from 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood to 50 mg alcohol /100 ml blood. 50 mg is the limit adopted in most other European countries. The limit is unchanged in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.


  • On 4th December, Direct Line Car Insurance published an analysis by gender of breath tests carried out in England and Wales in the 12 months to August 2014. This was the result of a Freedom of Information request. Most police forces provided data. According to these data, on average, women accounted for 23% of roadside breath tests undertaken by police. This ranged from 15% in Cambridgeshire to 29% in North Wales. On average, 10% of men and 7% of women failed the test. The complete results  are available here


  • The level of testing varies considerably across the UK. Home Office data for England and Wales for 2012 show an average of 12 breath tests per 1,000 population, ranging from 72/1000 in North Wales to  4/1,000 in Avon and Somerset. These results are are illustrated below (supplied Direct Line.)  The full Home Office data are available at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/299474/ppp-breath-tests-1213-tabs.ods


  • The annual Reported Road Casualties Great Britain (DfT) contains one table on digital breath tests – RAS51018: Results of screening breath tests following a road traffic collision, England and Wales. For 2013, on average 8% of those tested were over the legal breath alcohol limit (shown in micrograms). The breakdown by gender shows that 9% of men and 6% of women were above the legal limit.   


  • The DfT also publishes data on digital breath tests for all tests carried out (where available). The raw data are at http://data.gov.uk/dataset/road-accidents-safety-data. The data include reason for test, gender, age and breath test result (shown in micrograms). The data are not available for all forces and it varies between years.

  • The DfT have now released their response of their consultation on the DfT Drink-Drive Statistics and a new way of reporting drink-drive statistics have been announced as of December 2014. This is available here.




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