Andrew Adonis, transport secretary, has announced the appointment of an independent expert to examine possible changes to the law on drink and drug driving.
Sir Peter North will advise on the case for changes to the drink driving limit as well as on whether there is a need to tighten the law on drug driving.
For both drink and drugs, the study will also consider the likely impacts of any changes on driver behaviour, and the practical steps needed to support the introduction of any new or revised offence.
Andrew Adonis said: “To reduce drink and drug driving accidents there may be a case for further strengthening the law. I have appointed Sir Peter North to provide me with independent advice on lowering the drink drive limit and tackling drug driving through a new offence.”
Sir Peter North said: “The challenge is to see whether changes in the law and its processes can reduce casualties.
“The legal and practical issues are not easy to resolve but I intend to consult widely on these matters. I shall form my own independent views on them with the objective of providing advice by the end of March.”
Sir Peter will provide advice on the merit of specific proposals for changes to the legislative regime for drink and drug driving.
For drink driving, the report will advise on the case for changes to the prescribed alcohol limit for driving – either reducing the current limit, or adding a new, lower limit, with an associated revised penalty regime.
For drug driving, the study will advise on whether there is a need for new legislation. It is already illegal to drive while impaired by a drug but a new offence might make it illegal to drive with named drugs in the system at specified levels, in the way that it is already an offence to drive with a specified level of alcohol in the blood.
Commenting on the announcement, Robert Gifford, executive director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, said: “The link between alcohol and crash involvement is well-known and the research is uncontested. Analysis undertaken for PACTS by Professor Richard Allsop in 2005 concluded that around 65 lives a year would be saved with a lower drink-drive limit based on casualty figures at that time.
“However, the review should not be allowed to delay further work on the road safety strategy itself. There is a need for clearer guidance from the Department on the extension of 20mph as the default speed in residential and urban shopping streets.
"There is a need for work to ensure that cycling is safer both for those currently and for those thinking about cycling. There is also a need for clarity on changes to the penalty regime for speeding and careless driving proposed in the consultation on compliance with road traffic law.
“The adoption of a systems approach to road safety will be crucial to progress in the next decade. Such an approach emphasises the role of system designers (both public and private) in reducing both the latent errors and dangerous actions that we all may make on our roads. That approach must be central to our thinking beyond 2010.”
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