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Technology can improve road safety

09 December 2020

DESPITE MORE than 50 years of drink drive campaigns, road traffic accidents caused by driving after consuming alcohol are showing a rise in numbers.

When the preliminary Department of Transport figures for 2018 were released in August 2020, they showed that the total number of crashes, where at least one driver was over the alcohol limit, rose by 3% on the previous year to 5,890, an average of around 16 crashes a day. The figures also showed that 23 people are killed or injured as a result of drink driving in the UK every day!

These statistics highlight that we have a significant road safety issue which has personal, economic and societal impact for both individual and commercial road users. As a result, following the publication of the figures, we carried out some research with YouGov. Our objective was to understand Public attitudes to drink driving, and also to the use of technology to help prevent a further increase in drink driving related accidents.

The respondents in the research sample all had a full driving licence and consume alcohol, and when asked about their attitude to drinking and driving, the findings showed that more than half of these respondents would drive after consuming alcohol. Although, interestingly, this figure reduces after more than one drink, with only 14% saying they would drive after consuming two drinks and just 2% after consuming three or more.

The YouGov findings also indicated that men are more likely than women to drive after consuming alcohol – less than half of female respondents (47%) said they would drive after one drink, compared with 62% of male respondents.

As one in nine drink drive convictions occur ‘the morning after’, we were keen to undertand the attitude to driving the morning after consuming three or more alcoholic drinks. Just over a third of respondents (35%) would drive as normal but again women are less likely to drive the next morning, 27% of women compared with 43% of men would drive as normal. 

This research precedes the publication of a PACTS (Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety) study which is part of the Government’s assessment of interlocks. The devices are fitted into a vehicle and require the driver to take a breathlyser test before the engine will start. There are mechanisms available to prevent circumvention of the system and when installed mean that if a driver is over the limit, they will not be able to drive their vehicle.

The PACTS study, which is due to be published before the end of 2020, has investigated the feasibility of using this technology as part of drink drive offender rehabilitation programme and will draw on existing research, experience and expertise from countries around the globe where interlocks are required as part of offender programmes.

Offender rehabilitation programmes been operating in countries such as Australia, America and parts of Europe for many years and the data gathered demonstrates that use of interlocks in a rehabilitation programme can be effective. In America, the evidence suggests that interlock devices have prevented 3 million journeys where drink would have impaired the driver. Closer to home, a study carried out in Sweden showed an 80% reduction in RTAs among those who opt for the rehabilitation programme in the five years after taking part, compared with the five years before. While in Holland, a research paper published earlier this year showed that only 4% of those on the programme reoffended in the two years after the programme was completed, compared with 8% in the control group, a finding which is statistically relevant.

So what do the UK Public feel about the use of interlock technology and the introduction of rehabilitiaton programmes? The findings of the YouGov research showed that four in five respondents (82%) support the introduction of interlock devices for vehicles which transport large volumes of passengers, for example buses, coaches and school tranport, as a safety mechanism. There was a higher level of support for this among women, with 57% strongly supporting the step compared with 49% of men. However the support was strongest among respondents with children (51%) with 67% of those with three or more children under 18 in their household strongly supporting this kind of initiative. 

When it comes to drink drive offender programmes, there is public support for repeat offenders to have interlock devices fitted before their driving licence is returned (83%) and for first time offenders (56%).

We must wait a few more weeks before we learn the result of the PACTS study but the research indicates that the use of interlocks for drink drive offenders has broad support from the General Public. If the PACTS report is in agreement, the next step would be a trial of the technology. We eagerly await publication of the report!

This article was provided to BSIF by BSIF Member Graham Hurst, Marketing Manager Impairment, Draeger Safety UK Research

Respondents had a full driving licence and consumer alcohol (a sample of 1336 adults). All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. The total sample size was 2162 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 18th - 21st September 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).