Lowering drink drive limit ‘could have saved lives’

12.00 | 17 December 2015 | | 2 comments

Around 25 lives could have been saved across Great Britain this year, if England and Wales had followed Scotland’s example and cut the drink-drive limit.

That’s the headline finding from a new report, ‘Saving Lives by Lowering the Legal-Drink-Drive Limit’, authored by professor Richard Allsop and jointly commissioned by the RAC Foundation and PACTS. The report also says a lower limit could have prevented 95 serious injuries.

The law in Scotland was changed in December 2014 to reduce the drink-drive limit from 80mg alcohol/100ml blood to 50mg.

Professor Allsop studied road casualty data from 2010 to 2013, during which time  the number of people killed in a collision involving a driver (or rider) over the drink-drive limit (or who refused a breath test) remained constant at about 240 per year, with an average of 1,200 people seriously injured.

However, for every four deaths in this type of collision Professor Allsop estimates there was another death that was the result of a collision where someone had been drinking but was within the limit.

Professor Allsop believes lowering the limit from 80mg alcohol to 50mg could result in casualty reductions as drivers moderate their drinking to comply with a new lower limit.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “It would be a poor argument to suggest we should cut the drink-drive limit just because everyone else has done it. But this report makes the case on robust data and sound analysis.

“Policy in this area hasn’t moved for half a century but in the face of this evidence it increasingly falls on opponents of a limit reduction to defend the status quo, rather than asking those who support a cut to keep making their case.”

David Davies, executive director of PACTS, added: “A driver with 80mg blood alcohol concentration is 12 times more likely to be killed in a collision than a driver with a blood alcohol concentration of zero – but may still be within the law in England and Wales.

“The last independent inquiry into the drink-drive limit, conducted by Sir Peter North, recommended a reduction to 50mg. Since that time road casualties, including drink-related casualties, have decreased very little, if at all. There is a good case for allowing Parliament to examine the issue again.”

The report comes a day after new analysis of drivers who were under the influence of alcohol at the time of a crash revealed clear regional differences and highlighted the problem of drink driving in rural areas.

Public opinion divided?
With regard to public opinion, two surveys published in the past few days produced starkly contrasting findings.

In a survey published today by the IAM, almost 70% of respondents said they would like to see the legal drink-drive limit reduced.

However, a poll carried out for SmartWitness suggests that 62% of drivers in England, Wales & Northern Ireland do not want an extension to Scotland’s ‘one-pint-and-you’re-out’ clampdown.


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    The professor “BELIEVES lowering the limit from 80mg alcohol to 50mg could result in casualty reductions” and “ESTIMATES there was another death that was the result of a collision where someone had been drinking but was within the limit” but where is the evidence of these claims? When these are produced more people will agree with lowering the limit and may even reduce their own drinking.

    Andy, Warwick
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    Allsop does some good work. Table 2.2 is interesting – it confirms the problem is with 110mg plus. The small percentages for 20 to 109mg aren’t necessarily a contributory factor in the accidents. Indeed, there doesn’t appear to be any detailed STATS 19 data – there’s almost always more than one contributory factor in an accident.

    I can understand the thinking behind a 50mg limit, but I suspect most of those who might be discouraged from drinking are the ones who are already staying under the current 80mg limit.

    Paul Biggs, Tamworth
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