One in four killed behind the wheel have had a drink or taken drugs

One of the cars involved in the fatal accident near Lloret de Mar.
One of the cars involved in the fatal accident near Lloret de Mar. / EFE
  • A newly-released report highlights a persistent problem after a black weekend when 14 people died on Spanish roads

Four out of every ten people in Spain that have died at the wheel of a vehicle in a road accident have alcohol or drugs in their system. And often it's a mixture of several substances. These are the findings, based on 2017 data, of an annual study by government pathologists and forensic scientists.

The percentage of dead drivers who had a positive reading for drugs, alcohol, or pyschoactive medicines was 42 per cent, representing a very slight drop on 2016 data, which reveals the continued problem for road safety on the nation's roads: this percentage has been virtually unchanged since 2011.

Traffic bosses in Madrid say the alarming data is even more reason to increase drug and drink-driving tests on Spain's road network.

Typical profile

The typical profile of a driver killed while under the influence of drink or drugs is male, between 25 and 55 and driving a private car. In 2017 a worrying new trend was spotted compared to previous years. The 25-34 age group grew to be the most affected with an increase in the number of deaths of 50 per cent in just a year.

Just over 66 per cent of dead drivers had been drinking before the accident in 2017, almost 38 per cent had taken drugs and over 26 per cent had taken psychoactive medicines, especially benzodiazepines. The percentage related to alcohol fell slightly, however more worryingly, the amount of dead drivers who had been drinking heavily increased. Almost 76 per cent had over twice the legal limit, an 8.8 point increase on 2016. Half those killed were three times over the limit, an increease of 16 points on last year.

A black weekend

The report by the national toxicology institute (Instituto Nacional de Toxicología) came after a black weekend on Spain's roads as traffic increased for the holiday season.

Fourteen people lost their lives in 11 separate accidents last weekend and so far in July over 100 people have been killed, a slight rise on the same time last year to date. July last year was the third most lethal month to drive in Spain after June and October. Nine of the accidents were on secondary or single carriageway main roads.

In the worst accident, four people in their 20s died in an early- morning head-on crash on one of the roads leading from Lloret de Mar, on the Costa Brava, Catalonia.