The UK’s underage drink-driving population revealed

We like a bit of research at Nextbase, especially if it highlights the need for a dash cam. And we were staggered after we did an FOI request to every police force in the UK to find out how many drunk drivers had been caught on the roads – throw in a little curve-ball of the drunk driver being underage too, and it makes for interesting reading.

In the last six years (2008 to 2013), 6,558 minors have been caught driving while intoxicated, according to new Freedom of Information (FOI) data obtained by in-car camera provider, Nextbase.

Data received from UK police forces revealed that an average of 1,000 under-age children have been caught and charged with drink-driving offences each year since 2008. These aren’t just 17 year olds abusing their recent driving passes either. More than a quarter (26 per cent) of under-18 year old drink-drivers were 16 or younger – uninsured and dangerous on UK roads.

Furthermore, the evidence shows that there has been underage drink drivers as young as 11 and 12 years old. The 11 year-old offender was caught in the Thames Valley area in 2011, while 12-year-olds have been apprehended in Scotland (2012) and Manchester (2008).

Bryn Brooker, spokesperson for Nextbase said: “Uninsured drivers on UK roads pose a huge threat to the safety of the vast majority of responsible motorists, and pedestrians. These threats come in many forms and today’s findings go to show that it’s not just those who illegally choose not to buy insurance. Motorists have to be aware of such threats and take appropriate measures to mitigate the risk. The Nextbase findings go on to show that underage drink-driving is not an isolated problem, but occurs nationwide. Every police force in the UK has apprehended under-18 drunk-drivers in the past six years.

The most severely affected region in the UK for under-age drink driving was Greater Manchester, where 409 under-18s have been arrested for drink driving offences in the past six years. Other hotspots included rural areas such as Hampshire (276 offenders), Devon and Cornwall (241), and Sussex (160). Scotland also has a disproportionate number of underage convictions by population size, with 718 offenders since 2008.

Although the total number of underage drunk drivers incidents has fallen year-on-year, a number of areas saw an increase from 2012 to 2013. For example, in 2012 South Yorkshire police caught ten 17 year olds under the influence and driving without a licence; however, in 2013, the number increased slightly to 12 but included 16, 15 and 14 year olds. Others counties which saw an increase in 2013 include Northumbria, Thames Valley, Kent, North Yorkshire, West Mercia, Staffordshire, South Wales, Cheshire and Cambridgeshire.

Merseyside, Devon and Cornwall saw the greatest fall in offending individuals between 2012 and 2013.

Bryn Brooker continued: “If a motorist was to have video evidence of an incident they were involved in, there would be no doubt as to where blame was. For many unlucky motorists it is the case that there are simply no impartial witnesses to an incident, or increasingly, witnesses are unwilling to step forward. This means that insurers have to attribute blame to both parties, leaving the innocent driver potentially out of pocket by thousands of pounds.”

Under UK law, the minimum age limits for driving vary from 16-24 years old depending on the type of vehicle, but it is strictly illegal to drive any motor vehicle on a public road before the age of 16. It is illegal for under-18s to buy alcohol1, or to drink in any public place2.

A spokesperson from a police force’s Freedom of Information office explained that the nature of drink-driving convictions in under-18s is such that they will often be found in conjunction with other convictions. The cluster of offences committed by under-age drink drivers may include unlawful possession of a vehicle, driving without a licence, driving without insurance, and illegal purchase of alcohol as well as driving in excess of the legal limit.

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