Insurer warns on alarming trend of “less-drunk drivers”

16th March 2015

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New research has revealed a worrying new trend, as millions of drivers take to the road because they thought they were “less drunk” than their passengers.

According to a study from Direct Line Car Insurance 7% of all motorists admit to drink-driving with passengers in their vehicle in the last two years and 80% of these – equivalent to two million drivers, said it was because they were “less drunk” than their passengers.

The study was commissioned ahead of the upcoming Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) conference on the effects that alcohol, drugs and mobile phones have on driving behaviour, to support the Government’s recent launch of its new road safety legislation on drug driving.

Of the two million supposed “less drunk” drivers, over two in five, or 44% stated that it happens regularly and 35% have done it more than once.

A night out was the most common reason for “less drunk” driving, at 32%, followed by driving home after a dinner party, at 25%. Weddings, birthday parties and after drinking at home were also frequently cited.

The most common occasions where the driver was the “less drunk one”

Driving from…  
a night out 32%
a dinner or drinks party 25%
a wedding 21%
a birthday party 21%
home 21%
a sport, music or other leisure event 21%
a festival 18%
a work party / event 13%
the airport after drinking on a plane 10%
Other special occasion 9%

Source: Direct Line, 2015

Direct Line questioned respondents about the reasons for “less drunk” driving and 29% said they “thought it was a good idea at the time”. The same number did so because they thought they were less likely to be involved in an accident than if their passenger had driven.

A further 23% felt that they were fine to drive because they believed that they had a high alcohol tolerance and 21% said there were no other options. Alarmingly, 20% did it because they didn’t think they’d get caught.

The research suggests that these “less-drunk” drivers are most likely to stand in for friends at 22%. Partners, at 16%, colleagues with 13%, children, 9% and even parents, at 5%, are also likely to make up the rest of the “more drunk” party.

Rob Miles, director of motor at Direct Line Car Insurance, commented: “Being less intoxicated than the rest of your party isn’t a reason to drive. If you are over the limit and get caught or have an accident, being the least drunk out of your group does not mean the penalty or the danger will be any less. We’d encourage all drivers to avoid alcohol altogether if they intend to get behind the wheel.”

David Davies, executive director of PACTS added: “Drink-driving kills over 250 people each year so it’s concerning that so many motorists are willing to drive when they suspect they might be over the limit. This month, drink-drive legislation is being tightened and legal loopholes are being closed, making it easier for police to prosecute drink-drivers. New legislation to counter drug-driving has also come into effect across Great Britain so if you drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the penalties will be much higher.”

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