New figures from the Department for Transport (DfT) suggest an estimated 260 drink drive deaths on Britain’s roads in 2021.

Fatal incidents where a motorist was over the drink drive limit total an 18% year-on-year increase and the highest since 2009.

Drunk drivers accounted for 17% of all road deaths, up two percentage points from 15% reported in the previous year.


The DfT drink-drive data also shows that 6,740 people were injured in drink drive accidents, up 4%.

Edmund King, AA president, labelled the 260 deaths a “tragedy” which were down to “irresponsible” drivers.

“This is against a backdrop of reduced travel due to Covid lockdowns and, even more tragically, tens of thousands dying from Covid,” he said.

“There is no excuse for drink driving. If you are going to drive, don’t drink. If you are going to drink, don’t drive.”

RAC road safety spokesman Simon Williams addedhis voice to the comments.

“These figures are extremely worrying and demonstrate that the battle against drink-driving is far from over. He added that it “should be a wake-up call to both the Government” and called on police forces for more “effective enforcement, including increased roadside breathalysing”.

Over the limit

Data published last year showed that the number of drivers breathalysed by Police in England and Wales fell by 7% in 2021, reaching a record low.

The figures revealed that 224,162 motorists were tested at the roadside during 2021. They were part of a continuing the downward trend since the peak of 709,512 breath tests in 2009. It represents a decline of 68%.

Hunter Abbott, MD of personal breathalyser firm AlcoSense, describes it as “very concerning”. To see the number of fatalities caused by a drunk driver increase by nearly a fifth is shocking, especially considering many lockdown restrictions were still in force.

He is also concerned about casualties “caused by ‘lethal but legal’ drivers” – where effects on cognitive function occur, but below the official drink drive limit.

Analysis by AlcoSense of the new data shows that London and the South-East accounted for 28% of all drink drive casualties in Great Britain, with Scotland (where the drink drive limit is lower) recording the fewest (3%).

“More drivers need to be tested by Police after an accident,” added Abbott, who is also a member of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS). “Every year 17% of motorists fail the test or refuse to provide a sample.”

Roads more dangerous

In May, DfT figures showed that the overall number of deaths on UK roads had risen from 1,558 in 2021 to 1,695 in 2022 – an increase of 8.7%.

For the complete drink-drive DfT data, click here.