The Government has dropped the biggest hint yet that it would consider lowering the drink-drive limit to match that introduced in Scotland in 2014 – providing the evidence supports it.
Speaking during the road safety debate in the House of Commons on 5 November, Jesse Norman, road safety minister, said the Government is interested in the evidence coming from Scotland on lower alcohol limits.
The question was asked by Alan Brown, MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun, after concerns were raised about the rise in drink-drive related casualties in Great Britain in 2016.
The latest DfT figures, published in August 2018, estimate that 230 deaths were caused by drink-driving in 2016 – compared to 200 in 2015.
Matt Rodda MP, Labour’s shadow minister for local transport, highlighted the increase during the debate and also said that a lower drink-drive limit ‘should be looked at and reviewed across the UK as a whole’.
The lower drink-drive limit of 50mg per 100ml of blood was introduced in Scotland in December 2014. However, the rest of the UK still maintains an 80mg per 100ml limit.
Early research showed there was a 20% reduction in fatal road accidents in the first year after the new limit was introduced.
In October 2016, the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) predicted that reducing the legal limit to 50mg/100ml in England and Wales would save at least 25 lives per year.
However, a study published in October 2018 concludes the reduction to Scotland’s drink-drive limit has had little effect on the level of deaths and accidents on the nation’s roads.
Researchers from the University of Strathclyde found that the lower limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) has not been followed by a statistically significant overall drop in road fatalities, including during peak collision periods at night-time and weekends.
In December 2016, transport secretary Chris Grayling said lowering the limit from 80mg to 50mg per 100ml would divert police to the wrong offenders.
Road safety stakeholders – including Road Safety GB, Brake, the RAC Foundation, IAM RoadSmart and PACTS – have all previously expressed support for lowering the drink-drive limit in England and Wales.