UK Drink Driving Statistics (2024)

Authored By: Quittance Legal Services
Published: Updated 3 January, 2024
Last Updated: 1 July, 2024

Introduction

The following fact page aggregates and analyses the latest official UK drink driving statistics and figures. We also look at people’s self reported behaviour around driving while under the influence of alcohol.

At the time of publishing (1 July, 2024), the following research refers to the latest official UK Data. Sources are cited throughout.

UK Drink Driving Statistics (2024)

The following key insights are excerpted from the UK research data in this report:

Period Statistic Number Source
1979-2020 People killed by drunk drivers (annual average) 549 source
2010-2020 Convictions for drink driving (annual average) 41,737 source
2020 Total drink driving convictions 28,171 source
2020 Drivers admitting to driving when believing they were over the limit 140,000 source & source
2020 Road traffic accidents involving a drink driver 4,640
2019 People injured or killed in a road traffic accident involving a drunk driver 7,800 source
2010-2020 % of convicted drink drivers that were male 81.2%
Contents:

UK drink drive legal limits (2024)

In the Great Britain (England, Wales and Northern Ireland), it is an offence to drive with an alcohol concentration that exceeds certain legal limits:

  • 35 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath,
  • 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood or
  • 107 milligrams per 100 millilitres of urine (source).

In Scotland the legal limits are:

  • 22 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath,
  • 50 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood or
  • 67 milligrams per 100 millilitres of urine (source).

UK road traffic accidents involving drink drivers (1979-2020)

Between 1979 and 2019, there was an annual average of 549 deaths caused by accidents involving a drunk driver.

Between 2009 and 2019, the number of road traffic accidents involving a drunk driver has decreased by 34%, from 8,050 to 5,350.

The following table shows the total reported annual road traffic accidents, involving at least one drunk driver between 1979 and 2019.

Reasons for the overall consistent decline in drink driving accidents in recent decades include the use of breathalysers, stricter penalties, awareness campaigns and increasing social stigma. The introduction of the "Drinking and Driving Wrecks Lives" campaign in 1987 marked a messaging shift, from warning of the penalties of being caught, to depicting the deaths and injuries caused by driving under the influence.

Reported drink drive road traffic accidents in Great Britain by year:

Year Number of fatal accidents involving a drink driver Number of serious accidents involving a drink driver Number of minor accidents involving a drink driver Total number of accidents involving a drink driver
1979 1,380 5,630 12,460 19,470
1980 1,280 5,430 11,860 18,570
1981 1,200 4,940 10,900 17,040
1982 1,300 5,420 12,070 18,800
1983 950 4,750 11,430 17,130
1984 1,000 4,790 11,540 17,320
1985 900 4,900 11,460 17,260
1986 850 4,590 11,510 16,940
1987 780 4,220 10,560 15,560
1988 680 3,660 10,190 14,520
1989 700 3,390 10,300 14,390
1990 650 2,910 9,650 13,210
1991 570 2,590 8,530 11,690
1992 540 2,360 7,890 10,790
1993 460 1,870 7,160 9,480
1994 470 2,090 7,330 9,900
1995 460 2,140 7,590 10,180
1996 480 2,150 8,240 10,870
1997 470 2,140 8,100 10,710
1998 410 1,860 7,840 10,100
1999 400 1,850 8,800 11,050
2000 450 1,950 9,410 11,800
2001 470 2,020 9,780 12,270
2002 480 2,050 10,620 13,150
2003 500 1,970 9,930 12,400
2004 520 1,780 8,900 11,210
2005 470 1,550 8.060 10,080
2006 490 1,480 7,430 9,400
2007 370 1,400 7,520 9,280
2008 350 1,280 6,980 8,620
2009 340 1,180 6,530 8,050
2010 220 990 5,420 6,620
2011 220 1,040 5,430 6,690
2012 210 960 5,460 6,630
2013 230 880 4,590 5,690
2014 220 880 4,530 5,620
2015 170 980 4,570 5,730
2016 220 1,000 4,860 6,070
2017 220 1,110 4,370 5,700
2018 210 1,120 4,570 5,890
2019 210 1,300 3,850 5,350
2020 200 960 3,460 4,640

UK drink driving deaths and injury statistics (1979-2020)

In 2020, 6,480 people were killed or injured in a road traffic accident involving a drunk driver in Great Britain. This is a 17% decline from 2019 in which there were 7,800 such casualties.

It is likely that the various COVID-19 pandemic measures contributed to this decline. Department of Transport (DfT) data suggests that lockdown restrictions and a shift to home-working significantly reduced the number of vehicles on the road, reducing the likelihood of collisions.

Also notable during the lockdown period was the the proportion of cars exceeding the speed limit, which was higher than for the equivalent period of 2019 (Sce. gov.uk).

There were 220 deaths and 1,160 serious injuries as a result of drunk driving in 2020.

The table below shows the number of casualties (deaths, serious injuries, and slight injuries) caused by road traffic accidents involving a drunk driver between 1979-2019.

Reported drink driving casualties in Great Britain (1979-2019)

Year People killed in road traffic accidents involving a drink driver People seriously injured in road traffic accidents involving a drink driver People slightly injured in road traffic accidents involving a drink driver Total number of casualties from road traffic accidents involving a drink driver
1979 1,640 8,300 21,490 31,430
1980 1,450 7,970 20,420 29,830
1981 1,420 7,370 19,160 27,950
1982 1,550 8,010 20,660 30,220
1983 1,110 6,800 18,610 26,520
1984 1,170 6,820 19,410 27,390
1985 1,040 6,810 19,380 27,220
1986 990 6,440 19,220 26,650
1987 900 5,900 17,670 24,470
1988 790 5,100 16,860 22,740
1989 810 4,790 16,620 22,220
1990 760 4,090 15,550 20,400
1991 660 3,610 13,610 17,880
1992 660 3,280 12,770 16,710
1993 540 2,660 11,780 14,980
1994 540 2,840 11,780 15,160
1995 540 3,000 12,450 16,000
1996 580 3,010 13,450 17,040
1997 550 2,940 13,310 16,800
1998 460 2,520 12,610 15,580
1999 460 2,470 13,980 16,910
2000 530 2,540 14,990 18,060
2001 530 2,700 15,550 18,780
2002 550 2,790 16,760 20,100
2003 580 2,590 15,820 18,990
2004 580 2,340 14,060 16,980
2005 550 2,090 12,760 15,400
2006 560 1,970 11,850 14,370
2007 410 1,760 11,850 14,020
2008 400 1,620 10,970 12,990
2009 380 1,500 10,150 12,030
2010 240 1,240 8,210 9,690
2011 240 1,270 8,420 9,930
2012 230 1,200 8,510 9,930
2013 240 1,100 6,930 8,270
2014 240 1,070 6,900 8,210
2015 200 1,170 7,100 8,470
2016 230 1,250 7,550 9,040
2017 250 1,380 6,970 8,600
2018 240 1,370 7,080 8,680
2019 230 1,580 5,990 7,800
2020 220 1,160 5,100 6,480

UK drink driving convictions (2010-2020)

In 2020 there were 28,171 drink driving convictions in the UK. This is a 20% decrease from the previous year. Although the decline corresponds with a general downward trend in recent years, COVID lockdowns are very likely to have had an impact.

Department of Transport data for 2020 shows that fewer miles were travelled by road during the pandemic. With pubs, bars and restaurants closed and non-essential travel restricted, there were fewer opportunities to drink alcohol and then drive. Additionally, backlogged court cases may have also contributed to a reduction in actual convictions.

Data from Scotland and Wales specifically, however, anticipates a rise in drink driving offences during pandemic restrictions, particularly over the 2020/21 Christmas period.

Over the last decade (2010-2020) there has been an average of 41,737 drink driving convictions each year in Great Britain.

Over the last decade (2010-2020) 81.2% of convicted drink drivers were men and 18.8% were women.

Number of drink driving convictions in England and Wales (2010 - 2020)

Year Total convictions Male convictions Female convictions
2010 50,536 41,883 8,358
2011 47,539 39,196 8,185
2012 44,642 36,298 8,164
2013 40,683 33,208 7,317
2014 37,853 30,357 7,147
2015 37,578 30,357 7,007
2016 37,346 30,151 7,195
2017 47,529 38,786 8,839
2018 51,992 42,734 8,771
2019 35,241 28,144 7,097
2020 28,171 22,305 5,866
Total 459,110 373,419 83,946

Out of 459,110 convicted drink drivers over in the last decade:

  • 35,990 received a fine between £10-£100
  • 267,362 received a fine between £101-£500
  • 21,227 received a fine between £501-£1,000
  • 2,684 received a fine between £1,000-£5,000
  • 20 received fine over £5,000
  • 631 received a prison sentence under 3 months
  • 2,898 received a prison sentence between 3-6 months
  • 72 received a prison sentence over 6 months

UK regional drink driving convictions (2020)

Cleveland was the police area with the highest proportion of drink driving convictions with 1.28 per 1,000 people.

Hampshire was the police area with the lowest number of convictions with 0.28 convictions per 1,000 people.

As recently as 2016, official statistics suggested the opposite, with the South East recording the most drink driving incidents, and the North East the fewest incidents.

Drink driving convictions per 1,000 people by Police Force Region (2020)

Police Force Area Number of Drink Driving Convictions Drink driving convictions per 1,000 people.
Avon and Somerset 873 0.50
Bedfordshire 234 0.35
Cambridgeshire 389 0.45
Cleveland 726 1.28
Cumbria 310 0.62
Derbyshire 459 0.46
Devonshire and Cornwall 1,023 0.58
Dorset 303 0.39
Durham 366 0.61
Dyfed-Powys 283 0.57
Essex 830 0.46
Gloucestershire 300 0.47
Greater Manchester 1,296 0.48
Gwent 393 0.68
Hampshire 469 0.24
Humberside 506 0.45
Kent 734 0.39
Leicestershire 560 0.56
Lincolnshire 457 0.61
Merseyside 646 0.45
Metropolitan 3,055 0.34
Norfolk 652 0.72
North Wales 484 0.72
North Yorkshire 455 0.56
Northamptonshire 390 0.54
Northumbria 797 0.56
Nottinghamshire 544 0.53
South Wales 917 0.68
South Yorkshire 643 0.50
Staffordshire 592 0.56
Suffolk 398 0.59
Surrey 535 0.49
Sussex 693 0.41
Thames Valley 1,225 0.51
Warwickshire 247 0.45
West Mercia 857 0.76
West Midlands 1,274 0.34
West Yorkshire 1,111 0.53
Wiltshire 354 0.46

UK self-reported drink driving statistics (2009 - 2020)

In 2020, 5% of drivers admitted to driving while thinking that they may have been over the legal alcohol limit. This equates to 140,000 drivers on Britain's roads.

Factoring in crime data, only 20% of drivers who have driven over the alcohol limit were convicted in 2020.

In the last decade, 6.6% of drivers admitted to driving when they thought they had been over the legal alcohol limit on at least one occasion.

Self-reported drink driving in Great Britain (2010 - 2020)

People who have driven over the legal alcohol limit:
Year Almost every day (%) A few times a week (%) Once or twice a week (%) Once or twice a month (%) Once every couple of months (%) Once or twice in 12 months (%) Never (%)
2010 0.0 0.3 0.6 0.9 1.0 4.6 92.7
2011 0.0 0.2 0.5 0.8 0.9 4.4 93.1
2012 0.1 0.3 0.5 0.9 1.0 4.7 92.6
2013 0.1 0.2 0.5 0.8 0.9 4.0 93.6
2014 0.0 0.2 0.5 0.7 0.8 3.6 94.1
2015 0.0 0.2 0.5 1.0 0.9 3.7 93.8
2016 0.1 0.3 1.1 1.4 1.0 3.7 92.4
2017 0.1 0.3 1.0 1.3 1.0 3.8 92.4
2018 0.0 0.3 0.8 1.0 0.8 3.5 93.4
2019 0.1 0.2 0.6 0.8 0.9 2.9 94.6
2020 0.1 0.2 0.5 0.8 0.7 2.8 95.0

See also:

Road accident injury claims

Citations:

Source: Department for Transport

Source: Reported drinking and driving: data tables