Motorists in the Highlands have the highest rate of drink-drive convictions in Scotland, an analysis of car insurance quotes showed today – one week before the new lower limit starts.
The Inverness postcode area was also the fifth worst area in the UK, with more than 1.7 such offences per 1,000 drivers in the year to September.
Four other Scottish postcode areas were also in the top 20 – Fife (KY) in seventh place, Aberdeen/shire (AB) 13th, Dundee (DD) 18th and the Borders (TD) 20th.
Topping the table, which also included drug-driving, was Llandrindod Wells in mid Wales, with 1.9 offences per 1,000 drivers. It was followed by Blackpool and Crewe.
The figures, based on 11 million insurance quotes, come eight days before the drink-drive limit in Scotland is cut from 80 to 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.
Ministers hope the reduction, which is not being repeated south of the Border, will bring down the 20 deaths a year caused by drink drivers.
Those convicted face at least a year-long driving ban, a fine of up to £5,000 and six months in jail.
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Price comparison website MoneySuperMarket, which pub-lished the figures, said those convicted would see their car insurance premium increase by an average £350, which could double the cost. Kevin Pratt, its car insurance expert, said: “It’s only a matter of days before changes to Scottish drink drive laws come into play, but there is already a worrying prevalence for drink and drug driving across Scotland.
“As our data shows, many drivers are already being caught and convicted for drink and drug-driving, and many more could get caught out after next week’s change.
“In rural, and often isolated, locations across Scotland it could be the lack of public transport and the misguided belief they won’t get caught that makes drivers get behind the wheel while intoxicated.
“Or maybe motorists are driving the morning after the night before, when they still have excess alcohol in their system.
“Whatever the circumstances, there is simply no excuse.”
Neil Greig, the Scotland-based policy and research director of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said: “The effect of the lower limit in Scotland on these figures is going to be really interesting.
“An anti-social minority in some parts of Scotland is putting everyone at risk and they do need to be targeted to get them off our roads, but also to help them stop offending.
“The new limit sends a clear message that drink-driving is unacceptable, but only time will tell if it impacts on the real hard-core drink-drivers in places like Inverness.”
RAC spokesman Pete Williams said: “It is worrying news that parts of Scotland are experiencing some of the highest rates of drink-driving in the UK.
“It appears at odds with our research, which found more than three-quarters of Scottish motorists are in favour of the drink-drive limit being reduced.
“However, while the majority of motorists are law-abiding and want to see a genuine reduction in drink-driving, it has always been the case that a hardcore minority still believe that they can drink and drive and get away with it.”
The research also showed drivers aged 20 to 24 were the most likely to have been convicted of drink or drug driving.
Their rate of 2.5 offences per 1,000 drivers was more than three times that of 17 to 19-year-olds.
Men, with a rate of 1.7, were more than twice as likely as women to have convictions.
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