Government considering a lower drink-drive limit

26 Jan 2021 by Lisa Simm

Would you welcome a lower drink-drive limit?

Once again ministers in Government are to look at the safe drink-drive limit. The new push comes as ministers fear the reduced numbers of traffic-police and increasing alcohol use during the pandemic is causing more pressure on limited resources.

A government-funded study found that in England and Wales there has been a plateauing in accident statistics. Many ministers are therefore suggesting tougher measures.

“Drink driving is often cited as a road safety success story, yet it remains a major killer and progress has ground to a halt since 2010. Not only is better enforcement important but also the problems of mental health and alcohol dependency need to be recognised.”

said David Davies, executive director of Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS)

Why a lower limit is being considered?

Since 2010 on average 240 per year have been killed in collisions involving at least one drink-driver. PACT is advising the introduction of new measures to help reduce this number.

Public attitudes towards drink driving have definitely changed since legislation was introduced in the sixties. However, the data from PACTS certainly suggests that this is no longer enough and more stringent measures are necessary.

drink driver

Existing Legislation

Currently, the drink-drive limit is 80 milligrammes (mg) of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, or to 35 micrograms (mcg) per 100 millilitres of breath.

Unfortunately, there is no way to easily translate the legal drink-drive limit to a unit measurement or drink type. Alcohol can affect people differently due to variations in weight, age, sex and metabolism (the rate your body uses energy), type and amount of alcohol you’re drinking, amount you’ve eaten recently and your stress levels at the time.

A brief overview of drink-drive legislation

1960- The Road Traffic Act: states it is an offence to drive, attempt to drive or be in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or other public place while “unfit to drive through drink or drugs”.

1962 – The Marples Act: states it is an offence for any person to drive, attempt to drive or be in charge of a motor vehicle if their “ability to drive properly was for the time being impaired”. Introduces the possibility of using blood, urine or breath for alcohol analysis and failing to agree allowed to be used as evidence.

1966 – Road Safety Bill: Government announces January Road Safety Bill to come into force the following year. It set a limit of 80mg of alcohol in 100cc of blood making it an offence to drive when over this limit.

1967 – Breathalyser Developed

1981 – Transport Act: introduces evidential breath testing stating 35 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath the maximum legal breath alcohol limit.

1983 – High-Risk Offenders Scheme: introduces help for convicted drink-drivers who may have a drinking problem

1991 – Road Traffic Act 1991: introduces new offence of ‘Causing death by driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs’ with a compulsory prison sentence of up to five years.

2002 – Re-sit Test Introduced: drivers with a conviction for causing death by driving when under the influence of alcohol or drugs must pass an extended test before being allowed to drive again.

2014 – Scotland reduces drink-drive limit: The Road Traffic Act 1988 (Prescribed Limit) (Scotland) Regulations 2014 introduces reduces the drink-drive limit to

  • 22 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath; or
  • 50 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood; or
  • 67 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of urine.
drink-drive limit car keys and alcoholic drink

Recommended Legislation

As noted above in Scotland, the drink-drive limit is already lower than in England and Wales. It is suggested this lower limit is introduced across both England and Wales too to help reduce accidents.

However, PACTS suggests further measures will help to reduce drink-drive accidents. It recommends police get more powers so they can pull drivers over for random breath tests. As it stands, police must have reasonable grounds to suspect a driver has been drinking before they can issue a test.

Interestingly, PACTS found an increase in alcohol and mental health problems as a direct impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Therefore they also recommend creating new specialist rehabilitation courses to help tackle this specific issue.

In addition, the PACTS study found a 63 per cent decrease in police enforcement since 2009. So it is hardly surprising it also encourages tougher penalties especially for those who combine drink and drugs when driving and repeat offenders.

What do you think?

So do you support a lower drink-drive limit and the increase of powers to police? We would love to know what you think about the issues, so why not leave us a comment below.

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