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Should the drink drive limit be cut? 60% say 'yes', 50 years on

Part of the Road Safety Act of 1967 included the maximum legal blood alcohol limit of 80 milligrams per 100 millilitre of blood, which still exists in England and Wales today.

A survey has revealed that 60 per cent of drivers in England and Wales back calls for the legal drink-drive limit to be lowered in-line with Scotland and some of Europe, as the 50th anniversary of the current law arrives.

Part of the Road Safety Act of 1967 included the maximum legal blood alcohol limit of 80 milligrams per 100 millilitre of blood, which still exists in England and Wales today.

Whether this should be cut further has become a matter of fierce debate, with campaigners arguing that it must be done to lower road deaths and casualties, but opponents pointing out the the UK already has some of Europe's safest roads. 

The half-century drink-drive law: The 80mg per 100ml of blood drink-drive limit was introduced in 1967 - motorists think it's time it was upgraded to save lives on UK roads

The limit was dramatically cut in Scotland in 2014, with a 50mg restriction put in place.

The RAC has called for the Government to 'move with the times' and follow suit with stricter limits such as those in Scotland and Northern Ireland after six in 10 drivers voted in favour of lowering the existing level.

Asking a panel of 1,727 drivers, the motoring group found that 59 per cent of licence holders supported a lower drink-drive limit in England and Wales.

Meanwhile, of those who took part in the survey, more than a third (38 per cent) wanted it reduced to 50mg across the whole of the UK.

One in five (21 per cent) demanded stricter restrictions by dropping the limit to 20mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood - which would be less than one small glass of beer or wine.


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A similar limit to Scotland's is commonplace in Europe, putting the UK 'out of kilter' with the majority of the continent, it was claimed.

However, opponents of a change argue that the existing limit is low enough and that those who will break the law by will do so regardless of the drink drive limit.

The RAC's research was revealed just weeks after government statistics for Britain showed there had been a slight increase in the number of casualties on British roads in 2016.


Should the drink driving level be cut in England and Wales?



Should the drink driving level be cut in England and Wales?

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  • No 343 votes

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    The Department for Transport's latest figures showed that there has been little change to the number of road fatalities since 2012.

    In fact, the number of deaths caused by drink driving in 2016 was exactly the same as four year's earlier with 143 people losing their lives in such accidents - and consistent with the years in between.

    That means around 12 per cent of all deaths in reported road traffic accidents involve one driver over the drink-drive limit. 

    Last year, figures revealed that Britain had the second safest roads in Europe by miles travelled, according to a comprehensive study on EU road safety.

    A new report released by the European Transport Safety Council revealed that only Sweden had fewer deaths than the UK's per billion miles travelled in the EU.

    The UK comes further down the scale in fourth place for road deaths per million inhabitants, but only Norway, Malta and Sweden were safer on this measure. 

    Department for Transport stats showed a significant decline in road casualties in reported drink-drive accidents from 2005 to 2010, but there has been little movement since then

    High profile cases of celebrities being caught drink driving - including footballer Wayne Rooney (pictured) and TV presenter Kirsty Gallacher - has reopened the debate on the law

    If figures collated above the border are anything to go by, the reduction could have a significant initial impact on the number of injuries and causalities on the road linked to motorists with too much alcohol in their system.

    Data from Police Scotland released nine months after the 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood limit was introduced in December 2014 showed that the number of drink driving offences fell by 12.5 per cent compared to the same period the year previous, with the number of charges for drink driving dropping from 4,208 to 3,682 - a decline of almost 30 per cent. 

    Transport Scotland's data for 2016 is due to be released in October and is expected to confirm further declines in the number of accidents caused by drink drivers.

    However, figures for 2015 showed there had been more collisions involving motorists over the legal limit than the year previous, which could suggest that the initial fear of being caught over the limit had worn off slightly.

    It is possible that rather than the lower drink drive limit being a permanent factor in pushing down accidents, it was a temporary one, as people feared tougher enforcement and a greater chance of being caught over the limit and so were deterred from drink driving.

    The RAC called for England and Wales to 'fall in line' with the large sway of European countries with stricter drink-drive limits

    RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said: 'Fifty years after the drink-drive limit became law, it is time for the Government to move with the times and fall in line with the large sway of other countries which enforce a 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood limit with the aim of cutting the number of accidents that occur due to drivers being under the influence of alcohol.

    'The benefits of the lower limit in Scotland picture will be clearer when the 2016 reported road casualty data is published later this month, but should a drop in drink-related accidents at the wheel be seen then, this should be evidence enough to trigger a change in the law.

    'And, even if it doesn’t, can we really afford not to follow the majority who operate a 50mg limit if there is even the slightest chance that it will lead to fewer lives being lost or ruined?'

    Road safety charity IAM RoadSmart suggested an additional approach to tackle the nation's drink-drive issue alongside a lower limit and better policing, recommending that rehabilitation courses become compulsory for those who have been charged for the offence previously.

    Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the motoring charity, said: 'It must not be forgotten that drivers who take a drink-drive rehabilitation course are less likely to reoffend. 

    'Currently a convicted drink-driver has to choose to take a course when they appear in court. At IAM RoadSmart we believe a more effective option would be to make the course compulsory and force drivers to opt out only if they choose to do so.

    'In our experience drivers drink and drive for a variety of reasons often related to personal and financial problems. Treating their reliance on alcohol to ‘solve’ their problems can deliver a more permanent solution that improves road safety and deals with underlying addiction issues.'