Two thirds of motorists would ‘quit drink-driving’ if limit was reduced

12.00 | 3 December 2015 | | 3 comments

Two thirds of motorists would ‘quit drink-driving’ if the legal limit was reduced according to research conducted for the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH).

The research, released as the RSPH urges UK Governments to reduce the legal drink drive limit, is a Populus survey of 1,833 UK adults.

The results reveal that two thirds of motorists who admit to drinking any amount of alcohol before getting behind the wheel wouldn’t do so if the legal limit was lowered any further.

The survey suggests that drivers wouldn’t bother drinking due to uncertainty over how much they could drink and remain legal to drive, or because the amount they could legally consume would be so low it simply wouldn’t be worth having a drink.

The RSPH says that while any amount of alcohol increases dangers, drivers just under the current limit (80mg) are ‘twice as likely’ to die in a crash compared to those just under the proposed lower limit of 50mg.

Aside from Malta, the UK has the highest drink-drive limit in the EU. However, last year Scotland lowered its drink drive limit to 50mg – and the RSPH is urging the rest of the UK to follow suit.

It argues that in places where the legal limit has been reduced there have been significant drops in alcohol-related crashes, including Scotland, where data indicates that drink driving offences have fallen by 5% compared with the previous year.

Shirley Cramer CBE, chief executive of RSPH, said: “Alcohol related road fatalities account for around one in seven road traffic deaths and while good progress has been made in cutting the numbers killed or injured through alcohol-related driving incidents we believe that the UK should follow the lead of Scotland and the majority of EU countries and adopt a lower limit.

“The evidence is that this will lead to a drop in alcohol-related road traffic accidents and our research would suggest that a further reduction would encourage many motorists just not to take the risk of drink-driving.”

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said: “The Scottish Government acted on the evidence that a lower drink-drive limit would prevent accidents and save lives. It’s time for the UK government to follow suit.

“There is already a positive impact in Scotland, with fewer drivers endangering themselves, other road users and pedestrians. Even a little alcohol can affect our ability to drive safely, so avoiding drinking completely before driving is the safest option.”

Footnote: during the Question Time session at the 2015 National Road Safety Conference a show of hands from the 250 people in the audience indicated overwhelming support among road safety professionals for a lower drink drink limit.


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    What do you think is the biggest worry, getting hurt or getting caught?

    Duncan MacKillop. No surprise – No accident.
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    (Good point Duncan). Blood alcohol limits are a very difficult subject if we want to ensure that drivers aren’t criminalised for being sober and safe. It’s always worrying when conclusions are drawn from limited studies that provide statistical evidence, but not proof. Given that the chances of being killed in accident on UK roads is vanishingly small, doubling that, if it was true, would also be vanishingly small. If anyone is going to do a proper study, then they need to look at contributory factors and blame, not just whether or not a driver was below or just below 80mg. Otherwise you could do similar studies on tea, coffee and chocolate etc. – X number of drivers had eaten a chocolate bar before they were involved in an accident therefore chocolate bars cause accidents. Of course, tolerance to a given of level of blood alcohol isn’t universal – generally there’s a difference between the sexes and individuals. So, if we change the limit from 80 to 50, we should also lessen the harshness of some of the penalties too – you can be charged with drink driving just for being in the vicinity of your car with the keys in your possession. One proven physiological fact we do have is that, for any given level of blood alcohol, it has less effect if the level is falling rather than rising. I can sympathise with the arguments for keeping or lowering the limit, the the fact remains that it is those who are well over 80mg that present the greatest danger. Given that the number of drink-drive offences can rise or fall from year to year, we’d need several years of directly comparable data between Scotland and England. Also worth pointing out the involvement of over the 80mg limit for alcohol with pedestrian accidents – in 2013, 67 per cent of pedestrians who died in road accidents “overnight”(between 2200 and 0359) were over the legal alcohol limit for driving. So don’t drink excessively and walk either!

    Paul Biggs, Tamworth
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    Those two-thirds of motorists that would quit drinking and driving are probably not the two-thirds that matter.

    Duncan MacKillop. No surprise – No accident.
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