Festive season comes out top for drink-driving offences

Almost a third (32%) of drivers have been caught drink-driving in the morning as Confused.com launches new morning-after calculator

December is the worst month for drink-driving, accounting for 9% of the 57,000 offences recorded in 2016(1).
More than a quarter (27%) of drunk-drivers have been caught between the hours of 5am and 11am – with one in eight (13%) saying they drove while still feeling over the limit the morning after their work Christmas party!
Men are FIVE TIMES more likely to be caught drink driving than women, with 33,263 male drivers prosecuted in 2016 (vs. 7,454 women)(1)(2).
The East Midlands saw more drink-drivers in 2016 than any other region in the UK(1), accounting for almost a fifth (18%) of the UK total.

Christmas party season is upon us and thousands of UK drivers are gearing up for a night out celebrating with friends, family and colleagues. But, worryingly, new research reveals it’s the festive season that sees the most drink-driving offences.

Last year (2016), a whopping 57,255 motorists failed roadside breathalyser tests in the UK(1), with December proving to be the worst month for the offence. Throughout the festive month, 5,136 drivers were caught drink-driving, accounting for almost a tenth (9%) of the total offences recorded, according to new Freedom of Information data obtained by Confused.com, the driver savings site. 

But it isn’t just drivers heading home after a night out who have been found guilty of the offence. In fact, further research by Confused.com found that almost a third (32%) of drivers were caught over the legal limit the morning after a night out. And of those who have been caught drink driving, more than a quarter (27%) were caught between the hours of 5am and 11am throughout last year. And more than one in eight (13%) motorists who have driven the morning after, despite being over the legal limit, did so after their company Christmas party. With so many drivers being caught out, even after a good night’s sleep, Confused.com has created a ‘morning after calculator’ to help drivers find out how much alcohol could still be in their system after a night of drinking, and how long they’ll have to wait before it leaves their body.

But regardless of what time you finish drinking, or how much you drink, drivers should be especially vigilant over the festive period, as no doubt the police will be out in full force to catch those who might take the risk. But it’s men in particular who need to be the most careful, as the data shows they are usually the culprits, and are five times more likely to be caught drink driving that women. In fact, last year, a whopping 33,263 men failed the roadside breathalyser test, compared to only 7,454 women(1)(2). Drivers in the East Midlands in particular may also want to reconsider before jumping behind the wheel after a boozy night out, as the region saw the highest number of offences last year. More than 10,000 motorists in the region failed breathalyser tests in 2016, which accounts for almost a fifth (18%) of the UK’s total.

Number of failed breathalyser tests in 2016, broken down by month

Month Number of drivers 
January 4,270 
February  3,945
March  4,117 
April  4,220 
May 4,582 
June 4,456
July 4,621
August 4,157 
September  3,516 
October 4,030 
November 3,813 
December 5,136

As the data proves, last year thousands of drivers took the risk of getting behind the wheel after having a drink. But what’s more surprising is that 30 year old drivers accounted for the most offences. In total, 1,288 drivers aged 30 failed breathalyser tests in 2016, 1,120 of which were male. And drink-driving doesn’t seem to slow down with age, as 812 motorists aged 70 and over were also found guilty of being over the limit while they were behind the wheel last year. 

And even though drink driving is worse in some areas more than others, the new figures show offenders are at large across the UK. 

Number of drivers who failed the breathalyser test in 2016, broken down by region

Region Number of drivers
East Midlands 10,256 
London  6,244
Yorkshire & the Humber 6,060
Scotland 5,932 
South East 5,411
West Midlands 5,364 
North West 4,487
Wales  3,846
East of England 3,251 
South West 3,045
Northern Ireland 2,895
North East 464
Total 57,255

So far, 2017 is shaping up to be a more sober year, with just 34,101 motorists failing breathalyser tests to date (up to November). But the year isn’t over and we still have the festive season to get through.  And with more than a third (37%) of drivers saying they drink more alcohol around Christmas time, it seems likely that this year may rack up just as many convictions. In fact, almost half (46%) of drivers believe people are more likely to drink-drive around the festive period.

Worryingly, many drivers still don’t seem to know when they are over the limit. More than one in 10 (11%) motorists don’t know how many units are in their drink of choice, and a further one in 10 (10%) don’t actually know the legal UK drink-drive limit.

As motorists let loose over the festive period, it can be difficult to keep track of how many glasses of Buck’s Fizz or Baileys they are knocking back. But monitoring alcohol intake can certainly help motorists decide when is safe to drive. To help drivers keep a tab on the effect of their alcohol consumption, Confused.com’s morning-after calculator allows users to input their drink of choice, how many glasses they have had, and when they stopped drinking, to estimate when their body will be free of any trace of alcohol.

Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at Confused.com, says: “Many drivers look forward to a drink at Christmas time and the majority wait at least overnight before getting behind the wheel. But it’s evident that alcohol can still be in your system after a few hours’ kip.

“Knowing how many drivers fall into this trap, particularly at this time of year, Confused.com has created a morning-after calculator that gives an idea as to how much alcohol is still in your system, and how long it typically takes to leave your body.

“Drink driving is a dangerous and punishable offence, which can seriously impact the safety of our roads and put other road users at risk. Not only this, but it can land drivers with a fine, or even a driving ban, which can have a negative impact on their car insurance premiums. To avoid getting caught out, we suggest drivers stop drinking early if they know they have to get behind the wheel in the morning, but the best advice would be to avoid drinking alcohol at all.”


Notes to editors
Unless otherwise stated all statistics were obtained from a survey to 2,000 UK motorists. The survey ran between 7th December and 11th December 2017.

1. Confused.com issued a Freedom of Information request to 45 police forces in  England, Scotland and Wales, of which 33 responded, which asked four questions in relation to the number of breathalyser tests failed by drivers:

a) The number of people who failed a breathalyser test at the roadside broken down by month, so far in 2017, 2016 and 2015 in your force area. 
b) The number of people who failed a breathalyser test at the roadside broken down by age and gender of the offender, so far in 2017, 2016 and 2015, in your force area. 
c) The three dates of the year that most people were caught drink driving in 2015, 2016 and so far in 2017, and the number of incidents recorded on that date (e.g. 1st April 2016 = 21 incidents recorded) in your force area.
d) The top three highest breathalyser readings recorded in your force area in 2016 and 2017 to date.
2. Of the 33 police forces who responded, only 25 were able to provide a breakdown in by age and gender.

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Launched in 2002, Confused.com was the UK's first digital marketplace for car insurance and is one of the leading brands in the sector, generating over one million quotes per month. It has expanded its range of comparison products over the years to include home insurance, van insurance, motorcycle insurance, and car finance comparison, as well as a number of tools designed to save consumers money.

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