• Alcohol;
  • drinking and driving;
  • GAZEL cohort;
  • longitudinal study;
  • risk behaviours;
  • road traffic safety


Aim  An unprecedented decline in alcohol consumption and road mortality has been observed recently in France, but it is still unclear whether or not these changes affected driving while alcohol-intoxicated (DWI). The objective of the study was to estimate prospectively trends of excessive speed on the roads, alcohol consumption and DWI between 2001 and 2007 in a large cohort of experienced drivers.

Methods  Participants were current employees or recent retirees of the French national electricity and gas company, who volunteered to participate in a research cohort established in 1989 under strict conditions of anonymity. An annual cohort questionnaire is sent to participants that includes two questions about overall alcohol consumption. In 2001 and 2007, 10 684 participants reported their driving behaviours using the same self-administered questionnaire.

Results  Between 2001 and 2007, the proportion of participants (n = 10 684) who reported having driven at speeds at least 20 km/hour above the limit decreased from 23.7% to 4.1% in built-up areas (P < 0.001), from 34.3% to 9.3% on rural roads (P < 0.001) and from 24.3% to 2.7% on highways (P < 0.001). Regular and non-regular excessive alcohol consumption decreased from 22.7% to 19.7% and from 18.0% to 14.9%, respectively, whereas DWI increased from 22.9% to 25.3% over the same period (P < 0.001).

Conclusions  A recent crackdown on road violations by the French government has failed to deter DWI. Given that DWI seems to be a sporadic and rarely punished behaviour, its prevention requires more coercive measures, such as using a breath alcohol ignition interlock device.