Motorists, breath testing and drink-driving

Motorists, breath testing and drink-driving

Breath testing of drivers

Tables 19, 20, and 21 refer.

These tables cover all motorists who were known to be involved in injury road collisions (excluding, for example, those untraced drivers involved in hit and run collisions). Here, a motorist is defined as the driver or the rider of a motor vehicle (including, for example, motorcyclists)

In 2022, 57% of motorists involved in injury collisions were asked for a breath test (this ranged from 38% to 72% across the police force divisions). The breath test proved positive (or the motorist refused to take the test) for 3.8% of those drivers breathalysed. This represented 2.2% of the total number of motorists involved in collisions (including those who were not asked for a breath test). Although there was a general downward trend in these percentages, in the last couple of years these have been rising as seen in Table 19.

Tables 20 and 21 show the time and day of the collision (Table 20) and for a number of years (Table 21). Table 21 shows that, in 2022, of the 146 positive / refused cases, 39% occurred between 9 pm and 3 am (11% between 9 pm and midnight, plus 29% between midnight and 3 am). Table 20 shows that, using 2018 to 2022 averages, the number of positive / refused cases, expressed as a percentage of motorists involved in collisions, was highest (at around 12%) between midnight and 6 am, but varied depending upon the day of the week, from 7% (the average for 3 am to 6 am for Monday-Thursday) to 14% (3 am to 6 am on Saturdays and Sundays). Table 20 shows that, although the period from 9 pm to midnight had the highest number of positive / refused cases, the equivalent percentages were not as high, because between 9 pm and midnight there were many more motorists involved in collisions than between midnight and 3 am.

Drink-drive collisions and casualties

Table 22 shows the estimates (made by the Department for Transport) of the numbers of injury road collisions involving illegal alcohol levels. They are higher than the number of drivers with positive breath test results (or who refused to take the breath test) as they include allowances for the numbers of cases where drivers were not breath tested because of the severity of their injuries, or because they left the scene of the collision. Information about blood alcohol levels of road users who died within 12 hours of being injured in a road collision is supplied by the Procurators Fiscal.

The estimates show that the numbers of drink-drive collisions and casualties both fell by 69% between 2011 and 2021 (the latest year for which estimates are available): from a rounded estimate of 490 to roughly 150 (collisions) and from around 670 to some 210 (casualties). While fluctuating from year to year, the number of people killed as a result of drink-drive collisions is estimated to have remained the same in 2011 as it is in 2021 at 10. The adjusted number of serious casualties is estimated to have dropped by 61% (from roughly 180 in 2011 to some 70 in 2021).

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