The number of people killed in drink-driving accidents has reached an eight-year high, according to new data.

Between 240 and 330 people died as a result of road traffic accidents where at least one driver was over the drink-drive limit in 2017, provisional figures from the Department for Transport (DfT) have shown.

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If the ‘central estimate’ figure of 290 proves to be correct, not only will it represent an increase of 26 per cent compared with 2016, but it would be the greatest figure since 380 in 2009 – making it an eight-year high.

The DfT estimates that 8,660 people were killed, seriously injured or slightly injured in drink-driving incidents in 2017 – a four per cent decrease from the previous year.

RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams described the provisional figures as “a serious cause for alarm”, adding that the data “reflects a worrying change in attitude by a number of drivers who are prepared to risk their own life and that of others by drinking and driving”.

Williams explained that research for the latest RAC Report on Motoring revealed the proportion of drivers who admitted to driving when they thought or knew they were over the legal limit shortly after drinking has doubled from eight per cent to 12 per cent.

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He added that the “reduced number of roads policing officers” meant “more drivers are thinking they can get away with drinking and driving”. He described this as “a major issue for society” and called for “efforts to raise awareness of the risks” to be refocused.

In a statement, a DfT spokesperson described drink-driving as “absolutely deplorable” and said those who commit the crime “not only put their own lives at risk, but other people’s too”.

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The spokesperson said the Government is “working with industry to develop new roadside breath tests” in order that suspects “do not have the chance to sober up before being tested”.

The DfT also emphasised the fact that the final figures – when published in August – may differ from this provisional data.

Increase in drink-drive deaths in 2016 revealed

New figures issued by the Department for Transport (DfT) reveal that drink-drive fatalities on British roads rose by 18 per cent in 2016 compared to the previous year.

Final figures for 2016 show that between 220 and 250 people were killed in accidents in Britain where at least one of the drivers or riders involved was over the drink-drive limit.

It is estimated that around 230 road users were killed in drink related accidents over the year, rising from 170 in 2015.

Road fatalities reach a five-year high in Britain

The DfT’s new figures are 2016’s final numbers. In total, the “central” estimate of drink-drive casualties of all severity was recorded at 9,040 for the year, representing a seven per cent increase. Those 9,040 casualties are the result of an estimated 6,070 accidents, a rise of six per cent on 2015. All in all, it means roughly four per cent of all drink drive accidents in Britain two years ago resulted in fatalities.

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Earlier this year, Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, said “hard-core drink-drivers” were partly to blame, but called for greater detail in the way figures are recorded.

Counsens said: “The statistics need to show the breakdown of accidents by time of day to assess the proportion of drivers getting drunk at the pub versus those drinking at home who become a particular menace the morning after.”

Cousens added that in the face of declining traffic police numbers, more officers were needed in order to target “people in places where there is most likely to be” a problem.

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