Nurses attending the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) conference have called for a complete ban on drinking alcohol before driving – and Road Safety GB has added weight to the debate by advocating a reduction to the limit.
One nurse said cars were turned into ‘potential killing machines’ by drinkers while another described the number of deaths and injuries as ‘horrifying’.
Several nurses attending the RCN conference backed the motion although it was not put to a vote. Instead, the issue has been referred to the RCN council for further consideration.
Carol Evans, from Cambridgeshire, proposed the motion calling for a zero alcohol limit. Ms Evans said research had shown that just one unit of alcohol – generally considered the equivalent of the UK limit – led people to make poor judgments when driving and reduced their stopping distances.
She said there was widespread confusion about the alcohol content of different drinks and people were unsure exactly how much they could drink, adding: "The average person does not choose their drink based on units. It’s usually colour, price or flavour."
Andrew Frazer, an emergency care nurse, also backed the motion, saying: "You would not drink two pints of beer before going to work so why would you do it before getting behind three-quarters of a tonne of steel capable of going 100 miles per hour?"
James Gibson, spokesperson for Road Safety GB, said: "Drink driving causes hundreds of deaths each year, yet the UK currently has one of the most lenient alcohol limits in Europe – a situation against which we continue to campaign.
"Even a small amount of alcohol can impair a driver’s judgment, impact on reaction times and affect their ability to concentrate.
"A reduction in the alcohol limit would make many drivers rethink their current behaviour and encourage more motorists to abstain from alcohol completely if they’re driving. This has to be the way forward."
Rod Thomson, vice chairman of the RCN and a public health specialist, said after the debate there needed to be a ‘degree of tolerance’ in the drink drive limit to take account of potential ‘also positive’ results. This might include a scenario where somebody has used a mouthwash.
He said the current UK limit meant people could be over the limit the morning after a night out, although people’s metabolisms were different.
"Roughly speaking a unit of alcohol will be processed by the body per hour. If you’ve had eight pints of standard beer, you would have 16 units of alcohol," he said.
"To be able to burn that off by the next morning … it’s unlikely you would have cleared all that alcohol from your body and therefore you would be over the limit."