Ministers told to slash drink-drive limit

A study claims the Government will be ‘forever criticised for being out of step’ if it does not change the law.

Drink-drive limits should be cut in England and Wales due to the failure to reduce deaths from crashes, ministers have been told (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Drink-drive limits should be cut in England and Wales due to the failure to reduce deaths from crashes, ministers have been told (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Drink-drive limits should be cut in England and Wales due to the failure to reduce deaths from crashes, ministers have been told.

A Government-funded study recommended that the limit be cut by more than a third, and reduced to zero for professional and novice drivers.

The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (Pacts) said this would have a “totemic impact and long-term benefit”.

It claimed the Government will be “forever criticised for being out of step with other countries” if it leaves the limit unchanged.

Around 240 people have been killed each year on Britain’s roads in collisions involving a drunk driver over the past decade.

The limit in England and Wales has been 80mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood since 1967.

No other part of Europe has a limit above 50mg/100ml, the study noted.

In 2014, the Scottish Government reduced the limit to that level.

The Northern Ireland Assembly passed legislation to follow Scotland’s reduction in 2018, but this has not yet come into force.

Reductions in the limit have been shown to reduce fatal crashes in a number of countries including Australia, Brazil, France, Japan, Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland and the US, Pacts said.

Many of the drink-drivers interviewed for the study spoke about “uncertainty surrounding what the current drink-drive limit meant” and explained they “did not see the point of just having one drink”.

The report – led by the University of Stirling and the University of Dundee – also called for the introduction of increased penalties for drivers who combine drink and drugs.

It recommended that police are given mandatory breath testing powers, allowing officers to test any motorist rather than only those suspected of driving under the influence.

Researchers also called for the reversal of the reduction in drink-driving enforcement that has occurred in recent years.

Pacts executive director David Davies said: “After 10 years of declining levels of enforcement and social media campaigns aimed at young men, it is time for a new, more comprehensive approach to reducing the toll of drink-drive deaths and injuries.

“Drink-driving is often cited as a road safety success story, yet it remains a major killer and progress has ground to a halt since 2010.

“Not only is better enforcement important but also the issues of mental health and alcohol dependency need to be recognised.”

He added: “A lower limit is not a magic bullet but Government polices to reduce drink-driving will lack credibility as long as they avoid this change.”

RAC road safety spokesman Simon Williams said: “There has been virtually no progress in reducing drink-driving deaths for nearly a decade, so something different clearly needs to be done.

“A lower limit is something our research shows the majority of drivers would be in favour of.”

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