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Highlands 'one of Scotland's worst drink-drive hotspots'

By Philip Murray

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A police officer with a breathalyser.
A police officer with a breathalyser.

The Highlands is one of Scotland's worst hot-spots for drink-driving, new data has revealed as police gear up for their annual festive crackdown.

Almost 600 people were caught drink-driving across the Highlands in the 2022-23 year according to data released by personal breathalyser firm AlcoSense – placing the region behind only Glasgow, North Lanarkshire and Aberdeen/Aberdeenshire in Scotland.

The 574 people caught was even worse than those snared in a city the size of Edinburgh (499).

The data also reveals that the number of people caught across the country n December last year was up 15 per cent on the same time in 2021 – with 722 caught in 2022 compared to 628 just 12 months earlier, despite a similar number of tests.

Nearly a quarter of all those tested were found to be over the limit.

Related: Highland motorists warned as police launch festive crackdown on drink and drug driving

“Police always step up roadside breath testing during the Christmas and Hogmanay party season,” commented Hunter Abbott, of AlcoSense.

“If you drink four pints of medium-strong beer or four large glasses of wine, it can take as long as 14 hours for the alcohol to clear your system.

“Even with just 10mg per 100ml of alcohol in your blood (one fifth of the legal limit in Scotland) you are 37 per cent more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than when completely sober.

“The rules are simple. If you’ve been drinking in the evening, don’t drive. If you’re driving the next day, test yourself to make sure you’re clear of alcohol from the night before. One in five drink drive convictions are in the morning”.

The worst hot-spots for drink-driving in Scotland.
The worst hot-spots for drink-driving in Scotland.

The latest data from Transport Scotland estimates that 210 people were injured in accidents where a driver was over the legal limit in 2021, including 10 deaths.

Separate crime figures show there were 3555 convictions in Scotland for driving ‘under the influence’ (DUI) in 2021-22.

“This was a sharp rise on the year before (2,718 people convicted) although that year was severely impacted by the Covid pandemic with court closures and less traffic on the road”, explains Mr Abbott.

Analysis of crime data by AlcoSense showed that Glasgow is the DUI hotspot of Scotland with 942 offences in 2022-23, higher than anywhere else in the country and up by a third over the past decade.

Next worst were North Lanarkshire (820 DUI offences), Aberdeen & Aberdeenshire (650), Highland (574) and the City of Edinburgh (499).

Bottom of the table are Orkney (23) and Shetland (28).

The Scottish drink-drive limit was lowered in December 2014 from 80mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood (0.80‰ BAC) to 50mg (0.50‰ BAC).

Penalties for breaking the law in Scotland can include a 12-month driving ban, a £5000 fine, up to six months in prison and a criminal record. Causing death by careless driving through drink can result in a 14-year prison sentence.

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