Concerns over ‘less drunk’ drivers

Posted on March 17th, 2015 by James Luckhurst

Evening breath testNew research reveals an alarming new trend, with millions of drivers taking to the road because they thought they were “less drunk” than their passengers.  Seven per cent of all motorists admit to drink-driving with passengers in their vehicle in the last two years and 80 per cent of these (equivalent to two million drivers), say 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, more than two in five (44 per cent) stated that it happens regularly and 35 per cent have done it more than once.


A night out was the most common reason for “less drunk” driving (32 per cent), followed by driving home after a dinner party (25 per cent). 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
a festival 18%
a work party/event 13%
the airport after drinking on a plane 10%
Other special occasion 9%

Researchers questioned respondents about the reasons for “less drunk” driving and 29 per cent 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 per cent felt that they were fine to drive because they believed that they had a high alcohol tolerance and 21 per cent said there were no other options. Alarmingly, a fifth (20 per cent) 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 (22 per cent). Partners (16 per cent), colleagues (13 per cent), children (nine per cent) and even parents (five per cent) are also likely to make up the rest of the “more drunk” party.

“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,” said David Davies, Executive Director of PACTS. “Drink-driving kills more than 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.”