New Road Safety statistics released today show that after ‘just one’ drink one in four drivers get behind the wheel.
The 2012 survey, commissioned by the Department of the Environment, was designed to examine respondents’ behaviours and attitudes, and their awareness of specific road safety issues.
It helps monitor the effectiveness of the Department’s education and advertising strategies, test community support for road policing enforcement activities, and contribute to ongoing road safety policy development.
The Road Safety Monitor, whilst reporting that a large proportion of respondents (72%) were opposed to drink driving, found that a quarter of all drivers who drink alcohol would still drive after one drink.
There was overwhelming support for imposing the current set of drink drive penalties on those found exceeding newly proposed limits. For learner and restricted drivers exceeding the new lower limit (20mg/100mls), 84% of respondents supported imposing the current set of penalties.
Although the same lower limit is proposed for professional drivers, this attracted a higher level of support for using existing penalties (90%). For all other drivers a new lower limit of 50mg/100mls is proposed and just over nine out of every ten respondents (91%) support the use of existing penalties for drivers caught exceeding this.
Speeding, drinking and driving and careless driving are still considered the three main factors in causing injuries or deaths on Northern Ireland’s roads. The survey also sought to evaluate the effectiveness of road safety advertising campaigns and gather views on the topics of carelessness and inattention and penalty points.
Road Safety Minister Alex Attwood expressed his concern that over a quarter of people in Northern Ireland still drive after having one drink.
Attwood said, “These figures concern me. At present more than a quarter of drivers are taking a risk by driving after having one drink. Even small amounts of alcohol impair driving, so thinking that you can have one drink and drive safely isn’t realistic.
“There has been a lot of work done over a number of years to make drink driving unacceptable and now we need a further behaviour change. I have just finished consulting on a draft Bill that will introduce lower drink drive limits and a new graduated penalty regime.
“It also includes new powers for roadside check-points where all drivers could be asked to take a breath test, sending a strong message that testing will become more likely. Car drivers under twenty-five hold only 11% of full car licences yet are responsible for 44% of all road fatalities where the car driver was deemed at fault.
He added, “That is why the Bill will include provisions to target this issue by introducing a de facto zero limit of 20mg/100ml for novices within their first two years of driving.
“I plan to bring this Bill to the Assembly by the end of the year, with a view to the legislation being passed by summer 2013. My message is clear – never ever drink and drive.”
Key findings in the report:
Around 7 out of 10 respondents were aware of each of the new crashed lives series with the vast majority of those aware positively influenced (88%-90%) by the real life accounts of Martin, Melissa, Melvyn and Shannan.
Just over four-fifths (81%) of respondents stated that they were aware of at least one radio campaign. In 2011 the awareness levels of the radio road safety campaigns was 87% which represents a decline of six percentage points over the year.
When asked to list the three most important influences in creating, for them, an awareness of road safety, 78% of respondents stated that TV advertising was one of the most important factors alongside penalties for breaking the law (31%) and news and documentaries on TV and radio (28%).
Respondents were most likely to perceive road deaths and serious injuries being caused by people speeding (79%), people driving after drinking (67%), or carelessness on the roads (56%).
Almost 7 out of 10 (69%) drivers surveyed said that they had previously found themselves changing the radio, music channels or GPS while driving. In excess of half (56%) reported being distracted by someone in the vehicle, while precisely half reported eating, drinking or spilling food or drinks in the car while driving.
On the whole, drinking and driving was opposed by respondents to this survey with over 7 in 10 (72%) stating that it was not acceptable to drive after one drink and the vast majority (95%) stating it was not acceptable to drive after two drinks.
The top three penalties selected by drivers which would discourage them from driving if over the legal limit were ‘that you might kill or seriously injure someone else’ (75%), ‘being disqualified for a minimum of 12 months’ (59%) and ‘that you might kill or seriously injure yourself’ (56%). Factors such as vehicle seizure (36%) and penalty points (32%) were rated significantly lower.
A quarter of drivers who drink alcohol (25%) would drive after having one drink and this is similar to the levels reported the last time the question was asked in 2010 (24%).
Three in every 10 drivers (30%) who drink alcohol said that they would normally drive the morning after an evening on which they had been drinking 4 (for women) or 5 (for men) or more alcoholic drinks which is the same as 2010 (30%).
The majority of respondents support imposing the existing penalties for those who exceed the proposed lower blood alcohol limits. For learner and restricted drivers exceeding the new lower limit (20mg/100mls), 84% of respondents supported imposing the current set of penalties. Although the same lower limit is proposed for professional drivers, this attracted a higher level of support for using existing penalties (90%). For all other drivers a new lower limit of 50mg/100mls is proposed and just over 9 out of every 10 respondents (91%) support the use of existing penalties for drivers caught exceeding this.
Seven out of every 10 (70%) drivers who had been given penalty points received them on one occasion with the large majority (73%) being given penalty points for a speeding offence.
The majority (77%) of respondents thought that the penalty points system is effective in making Northern Ireland’s motorists act more responsibly.
Respondents views were split when asked if they thought the lower speed limit of 20mph should be more widely used with 49% in agreement. Females (54%) and those that don’t drive (62%) were more likely to support wider use of the 20mph in comparison to males (43%) and drivers (44%) respectively.
Two thirds (65%) of respondents stated that the limit should be 20mph outside schools, whereas nearly half of respondents (47%) selected areas where children play.
Those living in rural areas (43%) were less likely than those in urban areas (53%) to support the wider use of 20mph limits.