Government ‘interested’ in lower drink-drive limit evidence

09.01 | 9 November 2018 | | 4 comments

Police in Scotland administering a breath test

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’.

Jesse Norman says the Government are interested in evidence from Scotland

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.



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    I think this will not have any positive affect on road fatalities. I would suggest the vast majority of incidents involve people well over the limit who do not obey the existing rules and will not modify their behaviour if a lower limit were introduced. What this would result in is more pub closure with associated job losses and restriction on sensible law abiding drinkers

    Steve Pape, Fleet
    Agree (3) | Disagree (2)

    I think that the most effective step to reduce drink driving would be to make random testing official policy. It is already done through stealthy methods apparently. Then advertise that its happening on the motorway message signs ‘random testing tonight’ There are people who regularly drink-drive at well over the current limit simply because they perceive the risk of being found out as very low. This attitude can only be addressed by raising the psychological perception of the risk. A’smoke and mirrors’ campaign involving social media would also ramp up the fear. Just tell the police to park in very noticeable places to eat their sandwiches.

    Derek, Hertfordshire
    Agree (5) | Disagree (0)

    I fear your optimistic headline is misleading. The Government has long said that it would look at the outcomes from Scotland, generally without much conviction. Now we have the Strathclyde paper. Although the analysis can be debated it does not show a clear positive outcome. The Government knows there is more to come. This will be challenging to the road safety community.

    David Davies, LONDON
    Agree (6) | Disagree (0)

    Lowering the limit is all fine and dandy in principle, but drink-drive related deaths are likely to increase rather than decrease as a result.

    Here’s why:

    It’s the Christmas drink-drive campaign and I’m sitting in my police vehicle just down the road from a pub. The driver of first vehicle that comes along has a small amount to drink. Yesterday, he’d have given a negative roadside test and sent on his way. Today, however, with the new limit in place, he gives a positive roadside test.

    He is therefore arrested and off he goes, many miles away to custody. By the time he gets there and been processed, he’s under the legal limit (not at all unusual with most forces now having just one or two central custody suites).

    Meanwhile, the next vehicles that come from that pub are driven by people who have had far more to drink and are thus more likely to be a danger. Unfortunately, no-one is there to deal with them.

    If you take a parallel with policing Saturday night town centres, police don’t arrest the first merry drunk who comes along (even though they might have the power to do so), they assess the situation, use discretion, and send him on his way so they’ll be there to deal with the problematic fighting-drunks they know will be coming out later. In breath-testing no such discretion exists.

    Therefore, by all means lower the limit, so long as police resources to enforce it are proportionately raised.

    R Brunsdon, Gloucester
    Agree (14) | Disagree (2)

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