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50th anniversary of drink drive awareness campaign

On the 50th anniversary of the first public information film, new research from the Department for Transport shows how much attitudes have changed to drink driving in the last half century.

Of those surveyed, 92 per cent in the South West agreed drink driving was unacceptable and 93 per cent said they would feel ashamed if they were caught drinking and driving. This compares to over half of male drivers and nearly two thirds of young male drivers who admitted drink driving on a weekly basis in 1979.

Fifty years of campaigning against drink driving logo

The shift in attitudes is a stark contrast to the first drink drive public information film in 1964, which was set in an office Christmas party. The advert politely reminded people that “four single whiskeys and the risk of accident can be twice as great... If he’s been drinking, don’t let him drive.” 

Through a combination of road safety campaigning and increased enforcement, road deaths due to drink driving have fallen from 1,640 in 1967 to 230 deaths in 2012.

Drink Drive campaign poster from 1980Drink Drive campaign poster from 1980

However, in 2012 in the Avon and Somerset area, 1,572 people were convicted for driving after consuming alcohol or taking drugs. Furthermore, in 2012 there were 30 deaths due to drink driving in the South West.

"In 2012, 230 people were killed in drink driving accidents – 230 too many"

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:  “The change in attitudes to drink driving over the last 50 years is a huge success story. It is hard to imagine now how shocking and ground-breaking the first drink drive campaigns were when they launched. Clearly, THINK! has had a significant impact.

“Most of us understand drink driving wrecks lives but there is further to go. In 2012, 230 people were killed in drink driving accidents – 230 too many. This makes the THINK! campaign as relevant as ever.”

"Our aspiration would be to see the number of deaths reduce to zero"

Chief Inspector Yan Georgiou said: “Over the past 50 years there has been an impressive reduction in the number of drink driving-related deaths thanks to the hard work of road safety partnerships throughout the UK and the change in driver behaviour.

“However, our aspiration would be to see the number of deaths reduce to zero.  Police, partners and other agencies can play their part but, while the majority of people no longer think drink driving is acceptable, there is still a pocket of people who continue to drink and drive.  We need to continue to work to change everyone’s attitude to prevent further people losing their lives and families losing loved ones.”