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Road Safety GB backs What Car? drink-drive stance

Friday 11th March 2011

Road Safety GB has applauded What Car? for calling on the Government to reduce the drink-drive limit, after research revealed the difficulty drivers have in judging limits.

What Car? used a driving simulator to measure adults’ reactions when driving under the influence of alcohol. While reaction times slowed by 8% at the current legal limit of 80mg/100ml of blood, varying amounts of alcohol were required to get individuals to that level. One tester needed 12 shots of vodka to reach the legal drink-drive limit.

What Car? Says that drivers are confused by the Government’s don’t drink and drive message and the presence of a law that allows them to drink some alcohol before driving. In a whatcar.com poll, 50% of respondents still drive their car after drinking, and 10% do so after the equivalent of two or more pints of beer.

Steve Fowler, What Car?’s editor-in-chief, said: “Most people have a rough idea of what the drink-drive limit is, but no accurate understanding of how much alcohol they can drink and still be legally fit to.

“The simple solution is to cut the drink-drive limit to effectively zero, to cut out any confusion and to reduce the number of accidents and deaths as a result of drink-driving.

“The current law was introduced almost half a century ago and really needs to be reviewed. An effectively zero limit of 20mg/100ml of blood level removes the possibility of alcohol in food or medication taking you over the legal limit, but does not allow the drinking of alcohol.”

Alan Kennedy, chair of Road Safety GB, said: "While recognising there are practical difficulties with a 'zero' drink drive limit, Road Safety GB applauds What Car? For the stance it is taking with regard to drink driving.

"We join them in urging the Government to implement the recommendations in the North Report, which include lowering the drink drive limit to 50mg per 100ml of blood.

"The Transport Select Committee also agrees that the drink drive limit should be lowered - the Government should take advice from experts who have looked into this matter in great detail."

What Car? Has launched a petition which it will present to the DfT to illustrate ‘the wealth of public concern’.

Click here to read the full story.

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Well said, Fred.
So what great authority does 'What Car' magazine - or its owners Haymarket Press, claim regarding road safety?

Of course, many Road Safety charities will now jump on board to pledge support - and once again, like with smoking, the freedom of all people to act responsibly - and a public expectation that they should do so, will inevitably be put at risk - to be replaced by a prescriptive, massively restrictive and far less effective approach to this important subject.

But is 'What Car' being public spirited? Is it suddenly finding a public conscience or even a newly discovered interest in road safety? Of course not - What Car and the Haymarket Press know that drink driving is an emotive subject that attracts publicity like a magnet - they just want publicity to increase sales and profits! They know very well that a plethora of road safety charities as well as Health and Safety zealots will jump on board this type of campaign and that the national press and media will follow up to report it, thereby creating publicity - and all with 'What Car' in the headlights!

The medical and pharmaceutical industries did the same by their insidious support for the anti-smokers campaign - in order to sell more nicotine replacements - and at ridiculously high prices - now funded by us all via the NHS.

What Car and Haymarket just want to sell more magazines and grow their public profile.
Meanwhile, if they succeed, safe courteous and responsible drivers who enjoy the occasional drink will be pilloried as criminals while carnage on our roads continues unabated.

So - Road Safety GB - don't get me wrong, I want our roads to be safer places for everyone, but the right way to to do that is by educating and persuading drivers to be sensible, responsible and to drive in a way that minimises the risk of accidents. Let's try to get away from prescriptive solutions that don't work - and more particularly stop giving free publicity to commercial companies that see Road Safety as just a useful PR tactic.

And finally, I do at least give credit to 'What Car' for giving participants in their "survey" the option to say 'yes' or 'no' to the single question on whether you support their view. I've already voted NO and would urge anyone who agrees with me to do the same.
Paul, Watford

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So what if "reaction times slowed by 8%" in a simulated test in a sample size of four? It would have to be shown that it is likely that this would result in a net gain in terms of lives/injuries saved set against the harm that would be caused by people losing licences/jobs when there are no victims to speak of. No harm is done when there is no victim. It would also unfairly stigmatise drinkers when passive driving is a far bigger killer than passive drink driving on the roads.
When a drunk driver causes the death of an innocent person there are at least two causal factors, the fact that they were maybe compromised by drink and the definite fact that a vehicle was used, cut either of these causes out of the equation and maybe the death would not occur. A far better way of reducing the terrible ~3,000 annual deaths on roads would be to have a zero tolerence approach to recreational driving and people who insist on commuting to work in private vehicles as opposed to using public transport. It's a good job that binge drivers do not get so much media attention as binge drinkers otherwise
"What Car?" would be called "What (Publicly Funded Near Zero Risk To Pedestrians) Bus". If a law saves even only one life, that law must be worth it? No, it is not worth it if it causes more misery to the living than the recently dead. If we can accept the risk of people driving to a restaurant when they could have taken a bus then we can accept the risk of them having a beer with their meal when they get there. The best thing to do would be to issue driving licenses with a near zero alcohol level and the driver would have to pay for and pass a simulated test at a nominated blood level that would be linked against their personal licence. This way there can be no argument because they have proven themselves to be fit to drive at that blood level and if they have gone over their own level they can not blame a one-size-fits-all policy. Most people would probably not bother applying for such a licence but among the minority that would apply - it would keep them from harm too! Harm reduction!
Fredrik Eich, Brighton.

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