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Drink-driving deaths fall to all-time low

The number of people killed or injured on Britain's roads as a result of drink-driving fell to an all-time low last year, according to Government statistics released today.

The number of drink-related road accidents and deaths have fallen steadily since the 1970s and provisional figures showed the number of people killed dropped below 400 for the first time last year, to 380.

The figure means deaths due to drink-driving are now less than a quarter of the 1,640 recorded in 1979.

The total number of people killed or injured as a result of drink-driving dropped to 11,990 last year, a fall of 7.7% on the 12,990 recorded in 2008.

Department of Transport figures revealed in June that 2,222 people were killed on Britain's roads in 2009, an all-time low after a 12% fall from 2008.

Today's statistics reveal more about the contributory factors to accidents, including the number which involve a driver found over the alcohol limit.

The number of accidents involving drink-driving fell to 8,050 last year, a drop of 6.6% from the 8,620 in 2008.

The number of accidents resulting in a death stayed at 350, those leading to serious injury dropped 7.8% from 1,280 to 1,180 and those causing slight injury fell 6.4% from 6,980 to 6,530.

Deaths due to drink-driving dropped 5% from 400 to 380, the number of people suffering serious injuries fell from 1,620 to 1,480 (down 8.6%) and those suffering slight injuries reduced by 7.6% from 10,960 to 10,130.

RAC motoring strategist Adrian Tink said the steadily fall in the number of people killed or seriously injured by drink-driving was "encouraging", but added: "This is no time to be complacent - drink-driving ruins lives and more can still be done."

In June, a Whitehall-commissioned report by leading academic and legal expert Sir Peter North urged the Government to lower the legal drink-drive limit from the current 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to just 50mg, saying the move would save hundreds of lives a year.

Mr Tink said the move was "long overdue" and was supported by 87% of drivers polled by the RAC, but would need to be backed up by enforcement such as random breath testing and awareness campaigns.

The Government estimates that road accidents in 2009 cost £15.8 million, although the Department for Transport said the figure might rise to £30 million if those not reported to police were included.

The estimate includes treatment costs, loss of earnings and a financial estimate of the human costs like pain and grief.

Julie Townsend, campaigns director for the road safety charity Brake, said: "Every death on our roads is a tragedy. For every statistic in this report, a family has suffered unimaginably.

"These deaths are sudden and violent, and yet they are preventable. That's why we are calling on the Government to take a bold stance, outline what their plans are for tackling this daily carnage, and adopt a long-term vision of reducing road deaths to zero.

"In the current economic climate, we should be seizing every opportunity to reduce the huge social and economic burden of road casualties."

Neil Greig, policy and research director for the Institute of Advanced Motorists, echoed concerns about the potential effect of public spending cuts on road casualties.

"With these positive results, the worst thing to do would be to withdraw funding, and so it is important to carry on this good work.

"Any interventions need to combine maximum effectiveness with as little intrusion on the public's lives as possible, to improve acceptance."

Speaking about the fall in overall road deaths to 2,222, Mr Greig predicted: "If the results continue to improve like this, we will be well below 2,000 fatalities by 2020."