United Kingdom: Drink drive limit could be cut by third, ministers say
Andrew Jones, a transport minister, says that the drink drive limit could be lowered in England and Wales is there is ‘robust evidence’ that it has improved road safety in Scotland
Source: The Telegraph
By Steven Swinford
09 Feb 2016
The drink-driving limit in England and Wales may be lowered to make it illegal to drive after one pint of lager or a small glass of wine, the Goverment has indicated.
Ministers said they could follow the example of Scotland, where the drink drive limit was lowered in 2014 from 80mg per 100ml of blood to 50mg, if there is “robust evidence” that it will save lives.
The new limit would be equivalent to a pint of beer or large glass of wine for a man and half a pint of beer or a small glass of wine for a woman.
Doctors and road safety experts have been calling for England to follow suit amid concerns that the levels in this country are now some of the highest in Europe.
The Government has previously said that the current drink driving limit in England and Wales “strikes an important balance between safety and personal freedom”.
But Andrew Jones, a transport minister, said in response to a parliamentary question that he will meet with his Scottish counterpart to discuss the impact of lowering the limit.
He said: “I am intending to discuss with the Scottish Minister about the experience of the lower limit in Scotland and about the timescales to get access to robust evidence of the road safety impact.
“It is important to base our decisions on evidence and the Scottish experience will be crucial to that before we consider any possible changes to the limits in England and Wales.
“This Government’s current position however remains to focus resources on enforcing against the most serious offenders.”
The current 80mg limit in England and Wales is one of the highest in Europe, while several EU nations have banned drinking while driving entirely.
It is equivalent to one and a half small glasses of average strength wine or one and a half pints of normal strength beer.
Drink driving led to 240 fatalities and 1,080 serious injuries in 2014, the most recent figures available.
The new limit in Scotland came into force in December 2014. Police Scotland said that in the nine months after the drink drive limit was introduced the number of offences fell by 12.5 per cent.
There is also evidence it has changed social attitudes. In December a survey suggested that 82 per cent of Scots now believe that drinking any alcohol before driving is unacceptable.
An analysis by the RAC Foundation said that lowering the limit would have saved 25 lives last year and prevented 95 people being seriously injured.
Doctors and police chiefs have have been calling for England to lower the drink drive limit, while polls have suggested that three quarters of the public back a lower limit.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Ministers in Westminster are right to remain open minded about drink-drive limits and ready to assess evidence from north of the border.
“It would be a poor argument to say cut the drink-drive limit just because others have done it but there is now plenty of data to suggest a change would have a marked improvement in road safety terms.
“Despite rapid traffic growth the number of people killed in drink-drive accidents has fallen dramatically over time. But the weight of evidence is that we could do more.
“Drink-drive policy has not moved on for half a century. But the momentum now seems to be in favour of change. This is not about following the crowd but following the evidence.”
Edmund King, the president of the AA, said that lowering the limit would require motorists to be more aware of the limit the morning after an evening of drinking.
“A majority of AA members support a lower limit and it seems a sensible step to bring us into line with Scotland and the majority of European counltries.
“However, it would probably be more effective for the police to target hard-core offenders who are way over the current limit as they are involved in the most deaths and injuries on the road.
“With a lower limit, drivers will also have to be aware of being over the limit the morning after. Our research shows that almost 20 per cent of drivers have driven the morning after when they believed they could be over the limit.”
Mr Jones later attempted to clarify his comments. He said: “Britain continues to have some of the safest roads in the world because we crack down on those who break the law, and the government believes rigorous enforcement and serious penalties for drink drivers are a more effective deterrent than changing the drink driving limit.
“We continue to look at the best ways to improve road safety but the drink driving limit for England and Wales strikes an important balance between safety and personal freedom. By having our limit, we are not criminalising those who drink a small amount a long time before driving, but our advice remains unchanged: don’t take the risk by driving after you have had a drink”.