Records released by police forces from across the UK show that more than 6,500 people under the age of 18 were caught driving under the influence of alcohol between 2008 and 2013.
A total of 6,558 young people were found to be drink-driving, an average of five people per week. A number of those caught were driving without insurance, and 25% were aged 16 or under. The youngest individual caught was just 11 years old.
The data was drawn from the records of 43 UK police forces, with Greater Manchester, Hampshire, Sussex, and Devon and Cornwall shown to be particular drink-driving hotspots for under 18s. While the overall total of under-age drink-driver incidents has decreased slightly year-on-year, incident levels in several regions, including North Yorkshire, West Mercia and Staffordshire increased between 2012 and 2013.
The current drink drive limit is 80 milligrams of alcohol to 100 millilitres of blood, though Parliamentary proposals were announced earlier this year to tighten these restrictions for drivers under the age of 21 to 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. If prosecuted, drink-drivers face a 12 month driving ban, a £5,000 fine and up to six months in prison.
Helen Williams, a senior road accident solicitor based in Thompsons Solicitors’ Bristol office, said: “Accidents caused by drivers who are under the influence of alcohol shatter hundreds of lives each year. Anyone who takes to the roads, while over the limit, is putting their life, and the lives of other innocent road users, at serious risk.
“The number of young people caught drink-driving is especially concerning, particularly those without insurance. A worrying number were not even of the legal age to be driving a car, something that appears, in some areas, to be on the rise. Death on the road knows no age limit.
“The Parliamentary proposals discussed earlier this summer are a step in the right direction, but the government needs to focus on changing drivers’ attitudes to drink-driving if this problem is to truly be tackled before even more lives are needlessly destroyed.”