Report on Motoring 2016

Drink and drug-driving

2.3 Drink and drug-driving

Drink-driving remains a significant issue of concern for motorists in the UK, but this year has seen a surprising fall in the number that cite it as one of their top four biggest concerns, from 29% in 2015 to 22%. Similarly, 12 months ago 9% of motorists said drink-driving was their top concern but this has dropped to 5%. It is possible that this fall is attributable to a lower level of press coverage of accidents arising from drink-driving and a targeted approach by the THINK! campaign that restricts advertising to those times of the year, primarily in December, when the risk is perceived to be greatest.

Nevertheless, the Report does show a small rise in the number of people who admit to having driven while over the limit over the past year: 6% say they have done so shortly after drinking, up from 4% in 2015, while 2% say they have got behind the wheel the morning after drinking despite thinking they were still over the limit (1% in 2015).

As previous statistics have shown, it is people under the age of 45 who are most likely to admit to drink-driving. The rate in Scotland is lower than the UK average, and this may be due to the fact that there has been a lower blood-alcohol limit than the rest of the UK in force north of the border since December 2014.

The debate about whether England and Wales should reduce the limit to 50mg/100ml from the current 80mg/100ml level is ongoing. Earlier this year, the Department for Transport said that there were no plans to review the law as it stands16.

Instead ministers said they viewed ‘rigorous enforcement and serious penalties’ as a more effective deterrent.

In Northern Ireland, however, a 50mg/100ml limit is to be introduced in 2018, with even tougher restrictions on professional and learner drivers.


2% of motorists say they have got behind the wheel the morning after drinking believing they were over the limit


The debate about whether England and Wales should reduce the limit to 50mg/100ml from the current 80mg/100ml is ongoing

22% of motorists cite drink-driving as one of their top four concerns

6% of people admit to having driven while over the limit shortly after drinking over the past year


The 2016 Report on Motoring once again shows strong support among motorists for a lower drink-drive limit across the whole of the UK with 57% in favour. More specifically, 36% think it should be 50mg/100ml and 21% think it should be 20mg/100ml.

Opinion is split over whether a lower UK-wide limit of 50mg/100ml would be effective in deterring drink-drivers. Two-fifths (40%) think it would help, against 37% who don’t. Interestingly, 60% of Scottish motorists think a reduction would be effective, which is perhaps a reflection of their positive experience since the law was changed two years ago.

Among those who think a lower limit will not have an impact, two-thirds (66%) say this is because they do not expect a change in the law to deter habitual drink-drivers.

There was little change in the percentage of motorists who admit to driving under the influence either of illegal drugs or banned prescription medication: 7% say they have done so in the past 12 months compared with 6% in 2015.

There is some evidence to suggest that of those who have driven after taking class A, B or C drugs, more than two-thirds are under 35. But of those who have driven with banned prescription drugs in their system* the age profile is a little different, with 43% in the 35 or over category, 40% aged between 25 and 34, and 17% under 25.


43% of those who have driven with banned prescription drugs in their system* are aged 35 or over

40% of motorists think a lower drink-drive limit of 50mg/100ml would help deter drink-drivers


It would be a poor argument to call for a reduction in the drink-drive limit just because others have done it, but there is now plenty of data to show that a change could save lives – our own research estimated that a cut could save around 25 lives a year.

- Steve Gooding, Director, RAC Foundation