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Christmas drink driving habits revealed as December named worst month for offences

Posted on 16 Dec 2016

December revealed as the worst month for drink driving three years in a row, with almost 4,500 offences recorded in December 2015 (1).
FOUR TIMES as many men committed the offence as women in 2015 and so far in 2016 (2).
Almost three quarters (74%) of drivers who drink before heading out on the road will do it at least a few times a year.
Excuses from drivers include ‘I’ve just had the one’ (64%), having eaten a meal (42%) and not feeling drunk (19%).

With the festive period now upon us, new research reveals December is the worst month of the year for drink driving, with 4,437 offences recorded in December 2015 (1). With thousands taking to the roads after having had one too many, has investigated the reasons why so many motorists are driving after drinking alcohol. 

According to the car savings experts, the new FOI data reveals there are consistently more motorists caught drink driving over the festive period with a total of 12,242 offences recorded by UK police forces in December 2013, 2014 and 2015 (1). This is more than any other month of these years.

Top three months for drink driving offences in 2013, 2014 & 2015

Year Month  Number of offences 
2013 1. December  4,115 
  2. June  3,998 
  3. November 3,897
2014 1. December  3,690 
  2. August 3,559 
  3. June  3,557 
2015 1. December   4,437
  2. October 4,238 
  3. November 4,080 

The new Freedom of Information data, obtained from 34 UK police forces, also shows 34,804 offences have been recorded up to September 2016 (1). Based on figures for the same period last year, offences are up by 1,129. With figures expected to spike in December, 2016 appears to be on track for an overall increase the number of those offending compared with 2015.

It also appears men account for an overwhelming majority of offences, with additional data from 30 UK police forces showing more than four times as many men committed drink driving offences as women in 2015 and 2016 (2).

In light of the figures,’s research into drink driving habits and perceptions reveals of those who drink alcohol before driving, a whopping three quarters (74%) admit to doing it before they hit the road at least a few times a year. For some this behaviour is even more regular with more than one in five (21%) of those who drink alcohol before driving doing this at least a couple of times a month. 

Despite some motorists admitting to regularly drinking alcohol before driving, it is frowned upon by over half (52%) of drivers who say they do not think it is acceptable under any circumstance. However, motorists who drink before driving give a number of reasons for doing so.

Almost two thirds (64%) admit to using ‘I’ve only had the one’ as an excuse – yet just a third (33%) of drivers think this reason is acceptable. Meanwhile, over two fifths (42%) have driven after consuming alcohol because they have eaten a meal and almost one in five (19%) chose to drive because they did not feel too drunk. 

Given some motorists’ approaches to judging if they are over the limit, it may be unsurprising that three out of five (61%) of those who drink alcohol before driving do not use any formal methods of checking their blood alcohol content.

For some who will drink before heading out on the road, getting home appears to be the sticking point. Just under one in five (18%) said they drove because they only had to travel a short distance. Over one in 10 (12%) blamed a lack of available public transport and 8% said they could not get a lift. It stands to reason that almost two fifths (39%) say cheaper taxis would make it easier to avoid driving after a drink, while over a third (34%) think better public transport links would help.

Some appear to be more sheepish, blaming their decision to drive after a drink on being ‘young and stupid’ or saying that it was more acceptable before the ban, which introduced a blood alcohol limit for drivers, came into force in the 1960s (2)

Top five excuses among those who drink alcohol before driving

1. “I’ve only had the one” – 64% 
2. “I’ve eaten a meal” – 42% 
3. “I don’t feel too drunk” – 19%
4. “I don’t have far to travel” – 18%
5. “There wasn’t any available public transport” – 12%

When it comes to drinking habits, the majority of motorists who have drunk alcohol before driving – a third (33%) to be exact – will typically opt for a single pint of beer, while over one in five (21%) will choose a small glass of wine. It is perhaps unsurprising beer is perceived as the safest alcoholic beverage to drink among a quarter (25%) of those who drink and drive – although over a third (36%) say the type of alcohol does not make a difference to how safe they feel on the road.

Yet when drinking drivers were asked about the largest amount of alcohol they had ever consumed before getting behind the wheel, more than a quarter (26%) admitted downing two or more pints of beer. Just under one in 10 (8%) had drunk two or more glasses of wine.

On average, drivers who drink before driving will choose to wait just over three and a half hours before travelling, but almost one in five (18%) will wait half an hour or less. However, motorists do appear to be more cautious after three or more drinks, with the average drink driver waiting 11 hours before getting in the car.

Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at, says: “It’s clear from our research that some motorists feel ‘one and drive’ is a valid reason, among other excuses, for getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. Yet with almost 35,000 offences recorded so far this year, the number of motorists continuing to drive while over the limit is a very real burden on the safety of our roads.

“Given the recurring spike of recorded offences in December, we’d urge drivers to think twice before hitting the roads under the influence - especially during the festive period. One drink at a Christmas party could put someone over the limit, and simply not feeling drunk isn’t a guarantee you’re sober enough to drive. Alcohol tolerance depends on a number of factors including the person’s age, weight and metabolism, so a breathalyser result can vary massively from person to person.

“We want drivers to enjoy themselves this Christmas, so we’d encourage them not to ‘chance it’. Pre-arranging lifts and taxis will ensure motorists’ holiday plans aren’t scuppered by a driving ban and a night in the cells for the sake of a drink.”


Notes to editors
Unless otherwise stated, all figures taken from omnibus research carried out by One Poll on behalf of This was an online poll of 2,000 UK adults who drive (nationally representative sample). The research was conducted between 27th October 2016 and 2nd November 2016.

a. issued a Freedom of Information request in October 2016 to the UK’s 45 police forces. Of these, 34 responded. The following information was requested:

Please can you provide figures recorded by your police force for the following: 
- The number of people caught drink driving broken down by month, so far in 2016 and 2015.
- The three dates of the year that most people were caught drink driving in 2015 and so far in 2016, and the number of incidents recorded on that date in your force area.
- The number of people caught drink driving broken down by age and gender of the offender, so far in 2016 and 2015 in your force area.
- The number of people caught drink driving so far in 2016 and in 2015 broken down by street names and postcodes of where the incidents took place.

b. also issued a Freedom of Information request in October 2015 to the UK’s 45 police forces. Of these, 34 responded. The following information was requested:
- The number of people caught drink driving broken down by month, so far in 2015, 2014 and in 2013 in their force area.

c. combined the number of offences recorded by UK police for December 2013, December 2014 and December 2015 to calculate the total figure for the number of offences in these months - 12,242.

2. The Road Safety Bill was introduced in January 1966

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