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Women up to five times less likely to be roadside breath tested than men

4th December 2014 Print

Women are up to five times less likely than men to be roadside breath tested by the police, according to a new study from Direct Line Car Insurance.

Between August 2013 and August 2014, women drivers accounted for just 23 per cent of all roadside breath tests, falling to 15 per cent in Cambridgeshire. Even in North Wales – the area where the highest proportion of women are tested - the corresponding figure is just 29 per cent.

The figures, secured via a Freedom of Information Act request to police forces in England and Wales, suggest that on average, seven per cent of women and 10 per cent of men fail roadside breath tests.

North Wales is the breath testing hotspot, with 72 motorists in every 1000 tested. In contrast, drivers in Avon and Somerset are the least likely to be breath tested, with just four in every 1,000 drivers tested. Across England and Wales as a whole, 12 in every 1000 drivers are tested at the roadside.

Previous research by Direct Line revealed that 17 per cent of female motorists have driven whilst over the limit in the past year. When asked why they did this, 14 per cent said it was due to a perception that there was little risk of getting caught.

Gus Park, commercial director of motor at Direct Line, said “Roadside testing is an important deterrent and helps improve driver safety by keeping intoxicated motorists off the road.

“With such a small difference between the proportion of men and women who pass a breath test, it’s surprising to see such a discrepancy in the overall numbers being tested. Whilst the reasons for this imbalance are unclear, many female motorists who admit to drink driving cite a low risk of getting caught as a key reason, suggesting that perhaps more could be done to discourage this behaviour.”

According to the Home Office, a breath alcohol screening test can be required when a motorists is ‘involved in a collision, is suspected of driving with alcohol in the body or following the commission of a moving traffic offence.’

In 2012, police carried out a total of 682,558 breath tests, of which 25 per cent were undertaken in December. Despite significantly more tests being carried out in December, only four per cent of these tests were positive or refused, compared to a year-round average of 11 per cent.