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Scale of at-work drink driving unknown

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The government is being urged to collate and publish accurate figures to ascertain the scale of at-work drink driving.

Despite the government’s commitment to reduce crashes involving at-work drivers, there are no official statistics on how many drivers who are prosecuted for drink-driving were working at the time.

This makes it impossible to determine the scale of the problem in the UK.

Every year, over 87,000 motorists are disqualified for drink-driving or driving while under the influence of drugs.

Estimates would suggest that over 4,000 of these were driving for work at the time.

However, the police, the Ministry ofJustice or the Department for Transport (DfT) do not keep figures on how many convicted drink drivers were working at the time of the offence.

Both departments confirmed there are no plans to collect or publish such figures.

With up to 20% of drink drivers caught the morning after a drinking session, it is likely that thousands of those convicted every year were working at the time.

After a request from Fleet News, DfT statisticians calculated from the 2006 road accident figures that 5% of drivers who failed a breath test after a crash were driving for work at the time.

While these figures have never been published before, they do confirm similar findings from fleet risk-management companies.

Grendonstar, which provides drug and alcohol testing services, says fleet managers should expect that at least 8% of company drivers will fail a breathalyser or roadside drug test.

“If we tested a company with 100 staff, we would typically fail between eight and 12 of them for drugs or alcohol,” said Simon Truelove, Grendonstar general manager.

“One client breathalysed its logistical drivers and saw a 23% failure rate…this gives you an idea of the problem.”

Mr Truelove said the lack of any official data is disappointing.

“There are no national published statistics and that is a problem,” he said.

“It would be very beneficial if the police logged what a vehicle was being used for ...they could then come back industry and say ‘here are the problem areas’.”

With the enactment of the Corporate Manslaughter Act earlier this year, it is imperative that fleet managers measure and deal with all issues detrimental to the safety of their drivers.

“Employers must conduct suitable risk assessments and put in place all reasonably practicable measures to ensure that work-related journeys are safe, staff are fit and are competent to drive safely and the vehicles used are fit for purpose and in a safe condition,” says RoSPA in its Driving for Work - Drink and Drugs advice sheet.

One company recently escaped prosecution after one of its drivers crashed while over the drink driving limit only because it had an alcohol and drug policy, which included testing drivers, in place.

“The company had done everything that was reasonable and practicable,” said Mr Truelove.

“If it had not then it would have been liable to prosecution.”

It is accepted that at least 25% of all crashes involve an at-work driver and DfT research indicates that people who drive for work are over-represented in the accident figures.

Therefore it would be expected that figures relating to something as serious as drinking while driving for work would be available.

The police recently carried out a crackdown on summer drink-driving during which more than 91,000 motorists were breath-tested.

Just over 6,800 of those stopped were over the legal alcohol level or refused to be tested.

But the Association of Chief Police Officers, which organised the crackdown, confirmed that it kept no figures on how many of those who were arrested for drink driving during the crackdown were at work.

“The operation was a combination of random and targeted stops,” said an ACPO spokesman.

“The number of motorists who were at work at the time is not recorded on a national basis.”

The lack of reliable data on at-work drink driving highlights a wider problem, said Cathy Keeler, Brake’s deputy chief executive.

“We would welcome the government publishing data it collects on purpose of journey on a regular basis.

"Having reliable figures on at-work crashes would help everyone involved in fleet safety management fully understand the extent of the risks to their employees,” she said.

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