A dramatic rise in the number of fatal crashes involving alcohol in rural areas could be due to drivers becoming “desensitised” to awareness campaigns.
The claim was made by North Yorkshire’s Chief Constable Dave Jones as figures show the county has already seen eight such collisions on its roads in the first nine months of this year, double the total for all of 2012, and a further 31 where motorists were seriously injured.
He told a scrutiny meeting the rise, revealed by Department for Transport figures, was “bizarre” and said he feared drivers were now “desensitised” to drink-driving campaigns.
He said: “As part of our scanning of national developments there appears to be an emerging worrying trend where the presence of alcohol is increasing when linked to road collisions and clearly we have an ongoing concern that targeted campaigns against drink-driving are not hitting home.”
In North Yorkshire, where the number of fatal collisions overall has risen sharply in the last year, the percentage involving alcohol has climbed from 11 per cent in 2012 to 24 per cent so far this year.
It emerged earlier this year that an estimated 290 people were killed in drink-drive accidents in 2012 across the UK, up by more than a quarter compared with the 230 who died in 2011.
Road safety experts said the figures are alarming as they buck the trend of otherwise falling road casualties and point to a hard core of persistent drink-drivers.
North Yorkshire Police runs regular campaigns encouraging people to report motorists about to drive while over the limit, and arrested 103 people during its summer drink-driving campaign.
Despite the rise in fatal crashes in North Yorkshire, the number of people arrested for drink-driving offences up to October 20 this year is 757, down from the previous two years.