There has been a ‘significant rise’ in road casualties caused by drink-driving, according to the latest government data.

Provisional figures show that, in 2016, an estimated 9,050 people were killed or injured in incidents where at least one driver was over the drink-drive limit – an increase of around seven percent on 2015’s figures.

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The number of accidents related to drink driving rose by around six percent to 6,080, with the estimated number of fatalities rising from around 200 in 2015 to 240 in 2016.

If these figures are deemed accurate when the finalised data is released in August, drink-driving incidents will account for 13 percent of all road fatalities.

Drink-driving casualties have generally been falling over the past 40 years, down from 31,430 in 1979 to 8,210 in 2014.

Since 2014, though, the numbers have crept back up; first with a relatively small increase of 260 in 2015 and the more concerning rise of 580 in 2016. In fact, 2016’s provisional figures are the highest since 2012.

The RAC described the statistics as ‘disturbing’ and called on the government to review the drink-drive limit in England and Wales, which is one of the most lenient in Europe at 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. In comparison, Germany, France and even Scotland have limits of 50mg.

‘While a final figure won’t be available for a number of months, the picture that emerges from the latest drink-drive statistics is a disturbing one,’ said the organisation’s road safety spokesperson, Pete Williams.

‘We need more communication on exactly what the current strategy is for tackling a crime which can have such devastating consequences. The police also need to have the resources they need to robustly enforce the law and make our roads a safer place – the sharp fall in dedicated roads policing officers we have witnessed in recent years has surely not helped.

‘We also repeat our plea to the government to review the drink-drive limit in England and Wales – the limit in these parts of the UK is among the most forgiving of anywhere in Europe, which surely sends the wrong message to anyone who thinks about getting behind the wheel after having too much to drink.’

Road safety charity Brake went a step further, claiming a ‘zero-tolerance’ limit of 20mg per 100ml of blood was needed.

Joshua Harris, Brake’s director of campaigns, said: ‘These figures must be a wake-up call to the government, forcing them to act now to eradicate the menace of drink-driving from our roads. The number of drink-drive related deaths, injuries and total crashes in 2016 have all increased from levels which were already unacceptable. This deeply concerning trend highlights the urgent need for the government to enforce an effective zero tolerance drink-driving level across the UK.

‘The current drink-driving limit gives a false impression that it is safe to drink and drive. Brake is calling on the government to implement an effective zero-tolerance drink-drive limit of 20mg per 100ml of blood, making clear to drivers that not a drop of alcohol is safe.’