THE number of people charged with drink driving offences in Scotland has fallen by a third in the past five years, official figures have revealed.
Last year (2010/11) 5,348 motorists were charged while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs compared with 8,071 in 2006/07.
The decline in drink drivers was welcomed by politicians after they came to light in an parliamentary answer given by the Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.
Motoring organisations, however, pointed out that the big freeze that had seen most roads snowbound over Christmas 2010 had probably helped to keep convictions down. They also expressed concern that declining police resources may have played a part in the falling figures.
The past five years had seen a steady decline with 7,821 people charged in 2007/08, 7,225 recorded in 2008/09 and 6,232 in 2009/10. The number of people charged for causing death while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol was highest in 2007/08 when five people were charged. The following year (2007/08) one person was charged with causing death, three were charged in 2008/09, none in 2009/10 and one last year.
Stewart Maxwell, the SNP MSP for the West of Scotland who tabled the parliamentary question, said: “These are positive statistics and the trend is plain for all to see – fewer people are drink-drug driving.
“People are taking on the message that it is completely unacceptable to drive whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs.”
Maxwell said more can still be done to save lives on Scotland’s roads, which is why he backs the Justice Secretary’s moves to cut drink-drive limits into line with most of Europe. He added: “Lowering the limit by a third will send out the message that driving under the limit of alcohol is completely unacceptable and will reduce the number of accidents on our roads.”
Andrew Howard, head of road safety at the AA, said: “These figures are to be welcomed and reflect a fall in estimates for drink driving deaths across Britain. It is good news, but it has to be remembered that in December 2010 the weather meant that hardly anyone moved by road across the nation, because of the weather so there were fewer people drink driving over the festive period.
“We are also seeing dwindling police resources devoted to traffic, so that might have also played a role.”