Successive governments then embarked upon a massive propaganda campaign that together with high profile policing convinced most of us that drink drivers should not be looked upon as unlucky to have been caught and punished, but as deserved of all they got in terms of fines and disqualification for jeopardising the safety of themselves and others. Some police forces even embarked upon Crimewatch-style tactics of naming and shaming those found guilty, while others provided special telephone lines to encourage us to report those we suspected of having had too many drinks down the pub before driving. The Christmas anti-drink driving campaigns almost became part of the festive tradition and played out graphically the tragic consequences of this anti-social behaviour on our televisions.

By 1999 the number of deaths from drinking and driving had fallen to 400 and safety campaigners sat back, gave themselves a pat on the back and waited for the dramatic decline to continue until the problem was virtually eradicated.

However, pressure on police forces to re-allocate resources to other crimes led to some of them reducing the number of breath tests administered. In addition public perception began to grow that "one more drink won't hurt as you never see police cars on the road near pubs anymore". As with any epidemic, as soon as the patient stops taking the medicine the symptoms can return. Latest figures show that in 2004 drink related road deaths had risen to 530 while injuries were back close to the 1991 level. Yet this was in conflict with the overall number of road deaths which had fallen to an all-time low of 3,221. In 2004, one fifth of drivers killed on the road were over the drink drive limit.

GEM Motoring Assist, a road safety organisation and registered charity, supports calls for a reduction in the drink drive limit and research evidence clearly shows that if the limit were reduced from 80 to 50 (80mg of alcohol to 100ml of blood was established in 1967) casualties would fall. Such a reduction would also bring the UK into line with most of Europe. GEM conducted an on-line poll on its website, asking if the public supported the fitting of "alcolocks" (a device to prevent a vehicle being driven by a drunk driver) to public service vehicles and taxis. The 90 per cent support is but one reflection of the public's view of the problem.

Drinking and driving costs lives. Lives of those guilty of the offence, and tragically sometimes those who are innocent but in the wrong place at the wrong time.

David Williams, is Chief Executive of GEM Motoring Assist.

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