Parties disagree over lowering drink drive limit

19.49 | 15 March 2010 |

While the government has signalled it plans to cut the drink-driving limit from 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg, the Conservatives appear to be ‘unconvinced of the merits of such a move’, according to a report in the Sunday Times.

Sir Peter North, author of the review into the laws on drink and drug driving, is said to have been impressed by research at University College London showing that the change would save the economy £120m a year by reducing medical costs and lost working time. He is also though to be considering recommending an even lower limit of 20mg for novice motorists and HGV drivers.

Lord Adonis, transport minister, said he would take this ‘very seriously’, adding that a ‘strong case has been made to have a lower limit’.

However, Theresa Villiers, shadow transport secretary, said she was ‘not convinced that a change would be justified’, adding that she was ‘particularly interested’ in North’s expected proposals to combat driving under the influence of drugs. These could include the use of new ‘drugaliser’ roadside testing kits by police, to be followed by blood tests to assess precise levels of drugs.

Alan Kennedy, chairman of Road Safety GB, says his organisation would ‘strongly support’ a reduction to the drink drive limit.

He said:  “We would strongly support any proposal to reduce the national drink drive limit – even a small level of alcohol in a person’s blood can significantly affect their ability to drive safely.  Our message to drivers is simple; just one alcoholic drink can be fatal – for the driver, for passengers, and for other road users.  We look forward to reading Sir Peter North’s review of the UK’s drink drive laws, and hope that it proves to be the catalyst for more stringent laws and policing.”

And Brake, the road safety charity, has called for cross-party support for a lower drink drive limit.

Cathy Keeler, Brake’s deputy chief executive, said: “While better enforcement of drink-driving is certainly needed, a lower limit is vital to ensure that the Government’s ‘don’t drink and drive’ campaign is not undermined.

“Many drivers assume that as long as they are under the legal limit they are safe to drive. In fact, people driving at the current blood alcohol limit are 10 times more likely to crash than if they had no alcohol in their blood.

“Someone doesn’t need to be obviously ‘drunk’ for their coordination and judgement of complex situations to be impaired by alcohol. It’s a disgrace that Britain, which prides itself on being a road safety leader, should have the highest drink-drive limit in Europe.”

Click here to read the full Sunday Times news report.



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