CHILDREN as young as 11 and 12 are being caught drink-driving, data released today reveals.
An average of 1,000 under-age drivers have been caught drink-driving each year in the UK since 2008.
More than a quarter were aged 16 or younger.
In Scotland, a total of 718 youngsters aged under 18 driving while intoxicated were stopped by police between 2008 and 2013.
The youngest north of the Border was a 12-year-old caught in 2012, while the next youngest was a 13-year-old stopped in 2008.
The youngest in the UK was an 11-year-old caught in the Thames Valley in 2011.
Far more young males than females were caught in Scotland during this period – 642 compared with 76.
The figures were obtained from 43 police forces across the UK following Freedom of Information Act requests.
The worst English region was Greater Manchester where 409 under-18s were arrested. Hampshire had 276 offenders, Devon and Cornwall had 241 and Sussex 160.
Bryn Brooker, spokesman for Nextbase, the UK’s leading manufacturer of in-car cameras which record traffic conditions, and which commissioned the data, said he had been surprised at the low age of offenders. He said: “We commissioned the research to look at how dangerous roads were in the UK. We didn’t expect to pick up this sort of data. It was quite amazing.
“It’s part of a wider social issue with things such as petty theft, petty crime, all combined with gangs of youths.
“It looks like it is down to either a car being stolen or youngsters going out with their mates for a joyride, with alcohol involved. It’s a lot to do with group mentality and not just someone stealing their dad’s car.”
Mr Brooker added: “Uninsured drivers on UK roads pose a huge threat to the safety of responsible motorists and pedestrians.”
Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, described the results as “shocking” and said poor parenting was to blame.
“A surprisingly large number of young people are being caught drink-driving. Bad parenting and other issues are involved for those allowing their child access to alcohol and cars.
“Research shows new young drivers’ impairment is higher after consuming alcohol than for more experienced drivers. Also, these young people are setting themselves up for a very difficult driving career in terms of difficulties in getting a job, paying insurance and having a criminal record.”
Dr Evelyn Gillan, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “We know that under-age drinkers mainly get hold of alcohol from family members and older friends.
“All adults need to be aware that buying alcohol for children is illegal and could have serious, even fatal, consequences.
“To tackle under-age drinking, we need to make alcohol less affordable, less available, and less attractive to young people.”
Chief Superintendent Iain Murray, head of roads policing at Police Scotland, said: “While we saw a significant increase in the number of vehicles stopped and offences detected, we also saw a reduction in drink and drugs driving.
“Police Scotland continues to work to engage, educate and inform young drivers of the correct, safe behaviour needed when they get behind the wheel in respect of a range of driving and risk-taking behaviours.”