posted 1 year ago

Police Federation Call for Lower Drink Driving Limit

Police and safety charity call for Scotland's lower drink-drive limit to be extended to rest of UK

UK and Scotland Drink Drive Limit

The police federation have called for England’s drink driving limit to be cut from its current level of 80mg per 100ml of blood to 50mg per 100ml of blood in line with the lower limit which was introduced in Scotland earlier last year. At such a low level, a person could potentially provide a positive breath test and face a criminal conviction for drink driving after consuming just one pint of beer or one glass of wine.  

The UK’s Drink Drive Limit Comes Under Scrutiny Again

This is not the first time that the possible reduction of England’s drink driving limit has come under scrutiny. The issue was considered at length as part of the controversial North review (which founded the basis of the new drug driving law that was introduced earlier this year).  In his review, Sir Peter North concluded:

"A reduction to 50 mg/100 ml would undoubtedly save a significant number of lives. In the first year post-implementation, estimates range from at least 43 to around 168 lives saved – as well as avoiding a larger number of serious injuries – a conservative estimate is 280 although as many as almost 16,000 has been modelled. It is estimated that the impact of any lowering in the blood alcohol limit will actually increase over the first few years of implementation with an estimate of up to 303 lives annually saved by the 6th year."

However at the time, it was thought that it would be more cost effective to focus attention on enforcement of the current limit in order to have the greatest impact on the most dangerous drink drivers. After all, if a person goes out with the intention of drink driving, it matters little what the limit is. They are equally likely to disregard a limit of 50mg as they are 80mg or 100mg. 

Lower Drink-Drive Limit Has Positive Impact

Brake Deputy Chief Executive, Julie Townsend, said: "The new lower limit appears to have had a positive impact on drivers in Scotland. That said, there were still 351 drivers who chose to get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. As a charity that supports bereaved and injured road crash victims, we witness the suffering that drink and drug driving inflict, and appeal to everyone to help put a stop to it."

Ms Townsend continued: "Brake agrees with the Police Federation that the UK drink drive limit – one of the highest in Europe – needs to be lowered. We would like to see an effective zero-tolerance limit of 20mg alcohol per 100ml blood. This would make it clear that even small amounts of alcohol affect your ability to drive safely, and end the widespread confusion over whether it's safe and acceptable to have one or two drinks and drive. Research is clear that even very small amounts of alcohol impair, hence it should always be none for the road – not a drop.

Impact on 'Well-Meaning' Motorists

As a motoring lawyer, I have significant concerns about the potential impact of a lower limit on innocent, well meaning motorists who would be more likely to be caught out "the morning after" if the drink driving limit is reduced. With the drink drive limit lowered by such an extent, many well meaning motorists could consume a reasonable amount of alcohol in the evening, and then rightfully get a taxi home only to unwittingly drive to work in the morning with a criminal level of alcohol in their system without even knowing about it.

It is hoped that if the Government gives serious consideration to these latest calls, any future change, along with an emphasis on highlighting the residual impact of drinking the night before driving will be publicised well in advance. 

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Article by Expert Motoring Lawyer, Alison Ashworth; Head of Motoring Law at Forster Dean Solicitors.