‘Lost opportunity’ as government leaves drink-drive limit unchanged

16.09 | 21 March 2011 | | 3 comments

Road Safety GB and PACTS have described the government’s decision not to lower the drink drive limit as a ‘lost opportunity’.

The government has announced that the limit is to remain unchanged, despite recommendations in the North Report to lower it to 50mg.

The decision is among measures set out in the government’s response to the North Report, which include improved testing equipment to detect drink and drug drivers, and changes to streamline enforcement of both offences.

The government will also examine the case for a new specific drug driving offence which would remove the need for the police to prove impairment on a case-by-case basis where a specified drug has been detected.

Robert Gifford, executive director of the PACTS, said: “It is deeply disappointing that the government has failed to take this opportunity to save lives on our roads.

“According to the DfT’s own figures published last week, 85% agree that if someone has drunk any alcohol they should not drive. A new lower limit would have helped to support that view, making clear that drinking and driving do not mix.

“Evidence from Professor Richard Allsop and from NICE submitted to the North Review also showed reductions in deaths and injuries from a lower limit. The government has chosen to ignore this and the clear link between alcohol consumption above 50mg and the increased likelihood of crash involvement.

“While we welcome the operational improvements contained in this report, the failure to lower the limit continues to put our citizens at risk. How many more have to die before the government really makes road safety a priority?”

Philip Hammond, transport secretary, said: “Drink and drug driving are serious offences and we are determined to ensure they are detected and punished effectively.

“It is just as dangerous to drive impaired by drugs as alcohol so we need to send a clear message that drug drivers are as likely to be caught as drink drivers and that drug driving is as socially unacceptable as drink driving has become. That is why we will approve drug-testing devices and change the law to speed up the testing process, ensuring the police can bring drug drivers to justice.

“The number of drink driving deaths has fallen by more than 75% since 1979. But drink driving still kills hundreds of people so we need to take tough action against the small minority of drivers who flagrantly ignore the limit. Their behaviour is entrenched and after careful consideration we have concluded that improving enforcement is likely to have more impact on these dangerous people than lowering the limit.

“We are therefore taking forward a package of measures which will streamline enforcement, helping the police to target these most dangerous offenders and protect law-abiding road users.”

James Gibson, Road Safety GB press & PR officer, said: "Road Safety GB supported the lowering of the legal alcohol limit and took an active part in the North Review. A reduction in the limit would have made many drivers rethink their current behaviour and encouraged more motorists to abstain from alcohol completely if they’re driving. This really is a missed opportunity to save more lives on our roads.

"Driving under the influence of alcohol is directly responsible for hundreds of deaths on our roads each year, yet the UK will retain one of the most lenient alcohol limits in Europe. Families and friends of the victims of drunk drivers will find this decision very difficult to comprehend."

Click here to read the full DfT news release.


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    I wholeheartedly agree with the government’s decision not to change the drink drive limit. Concentrating on making the current law more effective by increased deterrent aligned to more effective enforcement should precede any further reduction of the threshold. It is fine for the Road Safety fraternity to promote a “Don’t drive and drive” message and I strongly support this but I do not consider it appropriate to criminalise those who choose to disagree with that message but are not breaking the law of the land. Pat B

    Pat Bates, Wales
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    The parents, families and friends of victims already find it difficult to comprehend that most drink/drug killers and maimers will either get away with their crime or be given a too lenient sentence. So it is no surprise that the government has, once again, bowed down to the pressure of the few to do as they wish and ignore the North Report.

    Why waste money on committees and reports when they are so blatantly ignored by the government?

    Judith, Norfolk
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    Surely it would have made more sense to reduce the limit, in line with most of the rest of Europe and ensure the police had sufficient additional resources to enforce it. All the evidence appears to support a lowering of the limit. Unless drivers really feel there is an increased risk of getting caught will their behaviour really change significantly? A lost opportunity. Very disappointing.

    Robert Smith
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