Case study analyses impact of Scotland’s new drink drive laws

12.00 | 1 March 2016 |


The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) has produced a case study looking at the introduction of tougher drink driving laws in Scotland, as part of its bid to tackle drink-driving across Europe.

The report, titled Case study: Scotland’s new drink driving laws, is one of a series of reports looking into the drink drive culture across the continent.

The briefing provides an overview of the new Scottish drink driving laws and includes an interview with Patrick Down, a policy specialist from the Scottish Government.

Police Scotland says that, despite a seasonal spike in drink drive arrests in December 2015, the general trend is heading in a downward direction, with 7.6% fewer drivers caught over the limit in 2015 compared to the previous year.

It is estimated that Police Scotland officers stop around 20,000 drivers each month, or one vehicle every two minutes on average. Officers have powers to breathalyse any driver who has been stopped for a moving traffic offence, and those who they suspect have been drinking/taking drugs or involved in a collision.

In the ETSC case study, Patrick Down says that an estimated that one in 10 road deaths in Scotland still involves a drink driver, but adds that the latest figures show a steady reduction in drink-driving related road deaths and injuries over the last 10 years.

On the impact of the new laws, he said: “We do not yet have directly comparable official statistics on the number of people caught drink-driving as these will become available when the police recorded crime statistics for 2015/16 are published in October 2016.

“However, figures published by Police Scotland show the number of drink driving offences in Scotland has fallen by 12.5% in nine months, from December 2014 to August 2015, compared to the same period the previous year. This is a fall in the number of offences from 4,208 to 3,682.”

On public acceptance of the tougher drink drive laws, he added: “While we don’t have direct data on the level of public support for the reduced drink drive limit, a poll carried out by the Scottish Government and Road Safety Scotland found that only 5% of those polled said they would drive after consuming alcohol and 82% of people agreed that drinking any alcohol before driving is unacceptable (while 12% disagree).

“This, together with the fact that the number of persons caught drink-driving by the police actually fell when the reduced limit was brought into effect suggests that the lower limit is helping to reinforce the message that the safest approach is not to consume any alcohol before driving.”


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