Transport minister Chris Grayling has confirmed that the Government has no intention of lowering the drink-drive limit in England and Wales.
In an interview with the Evening Standard, Mr Grayling, who assumed the position in July, said lowering the limit from 80mg to 50mg per 100ml would divert police to the wrong offenders.
Road Safety GB says it is ‘disappointed’ with some of Mr Grayling’s comments in the Standard article, and that it will continue to lobby for change to a lower drink drive limit.
Mr Grayling said: “We have a drink-drive problem, but it’s not people who had a glass of wine at the pub, it’s people who systematically flout the law.
“We have a fairly thinly stretched police force and we should concentrate on catching the serious offenders.”
Responding to his comments, Iain Temperton, Road Safety GB director of communications, said: "Road Safety GB’s position for some time has been to support lowering the blood alcohol limit.
"As a first step, Road Safety GB wants the government to bring the limit down from 80mg in 100ml of blood to 50mg, which would then be in line with most European Union member states. Road Safety GB’s board of directors is disappointed by the minister’s comments and will continue to lobby for change."
There have been numerous calls from road safety campaigners for the rest of the UK to follow Scotland and move to the lower limit, but in February the road safety minister Andrew Jones dismissed reports that the Government was planning to reduce the limit.
The latest Government figures, released in August, show that 240 people were killed in collisions where at least one driver was over the drink-drive limit in Great Britain, unchanged from 2013. The DfT says that due to the uncertainty associated with drink drive deaths, it ‘cannot be concluded that there has been any change in drink drive deaths since 2010’.
The stats prompted a coalition of road safety stakeholders, emergency services and health experts to once again call for the Government to reduce the limit in England and Wales on the premise that progress on drink-driving has stalled since 2010.
Mr Grayling has also come under fire from Brake, the road safety charity.
Gary Rae, campaigns director for Brake, said: “It is worrying that the man in charge of road safety appears to suggest that it’s ok to drink and drive. His remarks would be unacceptable at any time, but coming just before the Christmas festivities, makes them all the more irresponsible. It’s the wrong message, at the wrong time.
"Those who drink and drive up to our current limit are 13 times more likely to have a fatal crash than someone who is sober. 77% of the public want a lower limit as do the road safety community; Chris Grayling is clearly out of touch on this issue, and should choose his words far more carefully.”
In the Evening Standard interview, published on Tuesday (6 Dec), Mr Grayling also said motorists should not hope for a rise in the top speed limit to 80mph, insisting ‘It’s not on the agenda at the moment’.
He warned against the “zealous” use of speed bumps and said ministers were “watchful” of local authorities suspected of using bus lane cameras as cash cows.
On cycling, Mr Grayling criticised London’s cycle lanes, suggesting that too many are badly designed.
Adding that there are too many cyclists who ignore the rules of the roads, Mr Grayling said: “I don’t think all the cycle lanes in London have been designed as well as they should have been.
“There are places where they perhaps cause too much of a problem for road users and they could have been designed in a smarter way.”
“As transport secretary, I can only watch, because it is a matter for the mayor.”
Mr Grayling, a non-cyclist, said too many riders ignored red traffic lights on their journeys in the capital.
He added: “Motorists in London have got to be immensely careful of cyclists.
“At the same time, cyclists in London are too often unwilling to obey the road signs. I’ve seen regular examples of people who just bolt through red lights.”