Road Safety GB has hailed the publication of the North Report on drug and drink driving as a major milestone in the war on road casualties and urges the government to implement the life saving recommendations fully and speedily.
Sir Peter North recommends that the government should lower the legal drink-drive limit from the current 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg.
He also recommends that the 12-month driving ban – automatic for those who exceed the current limit – should be maintained for the new 50mg limit.
Sir Peter also calls for police to be given greater powers to check for drink-drivers and for drink-drive procedures to be streamlined, to increase police time on the roads.
Alan Kennedy, chair of Road Safety GB, has given the association’s full support for the proposed measures.
He said: “We welcome particularly the proposal to reduce the legal drink-drive limit.
“Like many others we feel that to consume any alcohol prior to driving is irresponsible. We realise, however, that for physiological reasons a zero level is impractical.
“The proposed level of 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood is probably the right level for practical roadside detection and, as well as preventing hundreds of deaths and serious injuries, will bring the UK into line with the rest of Europe.”
The report was sent to Philip Hammond, transport secretary, last month but only published today.
Mr Hammond said: "Sir Peter’s report is a serious piece of work that covers a wide range of issues.
"We will need to carefully consider these with other government departments. In doing so it is important that we fully investigate the economic and public service resource impact of any suggested changes to the law, taking account of the current financial and economic situation.
"Our priority will be to tackle drink and drug-driving in the most effective way possible to protect law-abiding road users. We will respond to Sir Peter in due course."
Making 51 recommendations in all, Sir Peter said that police procedures enforcing current drug-driving laws should be improved, making it more straightforward for police to identify and prosecute drug-drivers by allowing nurses, as well as doctors, to authorise blood tests of suspects.
Drawing on comprehensive new research commissioned from the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), Sir Peter said that as many as 168 lives – approximately 7% of current road deaths in Britain – could be saved in the first year of a reduced limit, rising to as many as 303 lives saved by the sixth year following any change in the law.
His review identified that many people do not know how much they can drink and stay within the legal limit, old or new, and that differences in people’s response to alcohol made setting drink ‘quotas’ a difficult, and possibly risky, strategy.
Sir Peter said: "Research conclusively shows the much higher risk posed by drink-driving. With a blood alcohol level between my proposed new limit of 50mg/100ml and the current 80mg/100ml limit, a driver has a six times greater risk of road death than a non-drinking driver.
"Having considered the issues carefully and considered views from all quarters, I not only believe that it is right to reduce the limit, but that the public is ready for a lower limit. It is time to give them what they want."
Click here to download a copy of the North Review report.