One for the road?

Despite 30 years of drink drive education and enforcement, around 100,000 people are still caught drink driving annually, and five people die in drink drive accidents every week.

Northern Ireland’s environment minister, Alex Attwood, last week outlined his proposals to change the drink-driving laws. The most significant changes would include:

  • Cutting the blood alcohol limit from the current level of 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg/100ml
  • Introducing another, lower, limit of 20mg/100ml for young drivers and people who earn their living from driving
  • Giving the police powers to randomly stop drivers without the need for reasonable suspicion
  • In certain circumstances, removing drivers’ right to opt for a blood or urine sample instead of a breath test.

The Scotland bill may give the Scottish Government the power to set the drink-drive limit in Scotland if it is not lowered in England and Wales, with the majority (79 per cent) of people in Scotland supporting a lower limit.

Although on the face of it the ideal limit is zero alcohol in the blood, we do not believe that this is literally possible, as a small amount of alcohol is found in some cough syrups and mouthwashes and can be produced naturally by bacteria in the gut after certain foods have been eaten. Therefore, talk of a zero limit usually means 20mg/100ml, not 0mg/100ml. However, this is not achievable in a single leap from the current limit of 80mg.

RoSPA believes the best option is a reduction to 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

We would like your views on the UK’s drink-driving laws: please take a moment to answer the questions below. If you’d like to comment further on the proposals, please make use of the comments facility – join the debate!

Kevin Clinton, RoSPA’s head of road safety

2 Comments to “One for the road?”

  1. For me I think it should be zero tolerance all the way, however if some bacteria and medicines can cause a raise in the mg of alcohol in the blood, it would be really difficult to manage. Removing the drivers right to opt to take a blood test or urine sample is a very good idea as this can be used a stalling technique.

  2. Good thought provoker.

    It might be worth pointing out the lifestyle implications of some of the current proposals. For example, a 20mg limit for occupational drivers would certainly have to mean much greater self control when it comes to evening/night time drinking. This could affect up to about 30 per cent of the population in work.

    As in all safety decisions it’s a matter of finding the right balance and so people need to be urged to look at the data in an informed way rather than responding intuitively.

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