THE number of people killed in road accidents caused by drinking and driving is on the rise.
The Government is disappointed by the 6% increase, which has led to calls from a Huddersfield-based road safety group for a radical change to the drink-drive laws.
The group, Brake, wants the legal alcohol limit to be lowered so it is in line with other European Union countries.
It also wants police to be given the power to breath-test drivers at random.
Brake chief executive Mary Williams said: "The drink- drive limit is too high and blatant encouragement to risk driving after having one or two drinks can be lethal.
"Meanwhile, the police have one hand tied behind their back because they cannot randomly breath-test high-risk drivers late at night near clubs," she added.
"We also need more high- profile anti-drink and anti-drug advertising all year round, to combat a rise in young drivers impaired behind the wheel. The Government needs to take urgent action now."
The grim statistics show that 560 people died in drink- drive accidents last year - 6% up on the 2001 figure. Total casualties in drink-drive accidents rose 7%, to more than 20,000, the most since 1990.
The total number of deaths on Britain's roads in 2002 was 3,431 - 1% down on 2001.
The number of people seriously injured fell 3% to 35,976, while total casualties - killed, seriously injured and slightly injured - numbered 302,605, a 3% dip on 2001.
Forty fewer children died on the roads in 2002 than in 2001 - a fall of 18%. The number of children killed or seriously injured fell nearly 8%.
Pedestrian casualties fell 4% between 2001 and 2002, but still accounted for 22% of people who died on the roads.
Motorcycle deaths rose by 4% to 609 and serious injuries rose by 3%. Pedal cycle casualties fell 11%.
Road safety minister David Jamieson said: "While safety on the roads shows steady improvement, we are very concerned about the increase in the number of deaths due to drink-drive accidents.
"A hard core of reckless drivers continue to drink and drive. They are a danger to themselves and everyone else on the road.
"They should remember that drink-driving kills and our penalties are among the toughest in Europe."
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