A package of measures to crack down on drink drivers was unveiled last week by Stephen Hammond, road safety minister.
Included in the proposals are plans to remove the statutory right to a replacement blood or urine test where a breath test reading is above and close to the legal limit. This measure closes the loophole which allows those testing positive in breath to attempt to sober up while they wait for a blood or urine sample to be taken.
The Government also intends to legislate to allow police the option not to perform a preliminary breath test following the rollout of roadside evidential breath testing devices, and to give registered health care professionals greater roles in testing drink drivers. Both of these options are designed to speed up the enforcement process and deal with more drink drivers.
Stephen Hammond said: “We have made great progress in tackling drink drivers and the 2011 fatality figure for drink and drive accidents is the second lowest ever recorded.
“However, last year 280 people died ruining the lives of families up and down the country so more needs to be done to eradicate this menace. That is why we are taking forward a package of measures to streamline enforcement against drink driving.
“I am determined to make the jobs of those who deal with drink drivers easier and less bureaucratic so that bringing offenders to justice is not left to chance.”
Currently, drivers who record less than 50 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath have the right to demand a blood or urine test – despite being over the legal limit of 35 microgrammes per 100 millilitres. This is known as the statutory option. This option dates back to the original introduction of breathalyser technology when there were concerns over reliability.
In his review of drink and drug driving, Sir Peter North recommended the removal of the right to demand a blood or urine test as evidence showed people were using it as a delaying tactic. The Government also believes that improvements in the accuracy of technology means that this option is no longer necessary.
Other proposals within the plans include: commissioning further research into the current process used to decide whether a driver banned due to drink driving can regain their licence; and further exploration of how greater use can be made of vehicle forfeiture powers to get the most dangerous and irresponsible motorists off the road, including drink drivers.
Responding to the proposals, Neil Greig, IAM director of policy and research, said: “With ‘beat the breathalyser’ pills legally on sale in the UK and a disproportionate number of younger drink-drivers, I’m worried that drink-driving could be losing its stigma.
“These proposals are very welcome but must be accompanied by higher-profile drink-driving campaigns, and not just at Christmas. Drivers need to know about the devastating consequences of drink-driving and drink-drivers need to know that they will be caught and punished.”
The Government has also announced a consultation on the legislative changes it proposed in its response to the reports by Sir Peter North and the Transport Select Committee on drink and drug driving.
Click here to view the consultation which runs until 2 January 2013.
Click here to read the full DfT press release about the new drink drive measures it has unveiled today.