Road Safety News

Fresh call made for lower drink-drive limit

Monday 10th October 2016

A coalition of road safety stakeholders, emergency services and health experts has issued a call for the Government to reduce the drink-drive limit in England and Wales.

The call comes on the back of statistics which show progress on drink-driving has stalled since 2010. The latest Government figures, released in August, show that 240 people were killed in collisions where at least one driver was over the drink-drive limit in Great Britain, unchanged from 2013.

The DfT says that due to the uncertainty associated with drink drive deaths, it ‘cannot be concluded that there has been any change in drink drive deaths since 2010’.

The new campaign for a lower limit is being led by the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) and supported by a number of stakeholders including the RAC Foundation, the AA, IAM RoadSmart Brake, PACTS and the Police Federation.

To support the campaign, the IAS has produced a two-minute animation (featured) outlining the key arguments for a lower limit.

The drink-drive limit in England in Wales, which was set in 1965, currently stands at 80mg alcohol/100ml blood. In 2014, Scotland lowered its drink-drive limit to 50mg/100ml - bringing it in line with the rest of Europe.

In fact, across Europe, Malta is the only country to have the same drink-drive limit as the UK, although it is also set to lower its limit to 50mg/100ml.

The IAS says reducing the legal limit to 50mg/100ml would save at least 25 lives per year, and points to DfT statistics which show that drink driving costs Great Britain £800m each year.

It also points to a British Social Attitudes Survey which shows 77% of the public support a lower legal limit.

Katherine Brown, director at the Institute of Alcohol Studies, said: “Recent decades have seen great improvements in road safety, but progress on drink driving has ground to a halt.

“With hundreds of lives lost each year, we can’t afford to let England and Wales fall behind our neighbours in road safety standards.

“It’s time the Government looked at the evidence and what other countries are doing to save lives and make roads safer. We need to make drink driving a thing of the past, and to do this we need a lower drink drive limit.”




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The breathaliser was brought out about 1968/9 and has been used ever since. The limit was set then and still is the same now at 80.

What we forget about or don't know about is that of the total number of tests done as a result of incidents, accidents, collisions, other road traffic offences or just suspicion of the police officers hundreds of thousands of breath tests have proved negative even though the presence of alcohol was there in the test.

Those negative tests were found visually to be under the yellow line or borderline and therefore not proceeded for. For those that tested positive in the street many arrested individuals were later found to be just under the legal limit when tested by machine. What we must remember is that of those thousands some if not all may have registered some amount of alcohol just under the legal limit which was set arbitrarily.

The exact numbers would not and probably never will have been recorded as they were negatives and therefore no action for drink driving was ever made against them. So many drivers got off with drunk driving and incidents that could have involved death just because of an arbitrary figure but where alcohol could have been a cause or contributory factor. We will never know.
Bob Craven Lancs

Agree (6) | Disagree (1)

I wasn't going to post again, but yes Pat you have surprisingly misunderstood me. Referring to self-discipline and responsibility, I was not talking about drinking alcohol (or not) per se - fairly obviously I would have thought, I was referring to drinking AND then driving. Your summary of my viewpoint seemed to have missed out the 'not' driving bit. (Liquid lunch?)
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (3) | Disagree (5)

One commentator mentioned zero limit on drink and driving. And there was I looking forward to my seasonal beef in red wine sauce and christmas pud with brandy butter. Seems I may need a personal breathalyzer as well as a calorie counter.
Guzzi, Newport

Agree (12) | Disagree (4)

My third and last post as I have used up my quota
Hi Hugh
I think we get your drift now. Taking your view as clearly stated below in the last couple of your posts and translating that for those you are speaking of, we seem to arrive at the following position:-
those who may choose to have a pint (one pint) as part of their meal at a restaurant over a period of a couple of hours or more (because that is alcohol isn’t it?) are those who don’t have self-discipline and don’t have a sense of responsibility. – or have I misunderstood what you said?

I prefer the balanced view the law makers have taken and abide by the law of the land. By the way I do sometimes go to a restaurant or pub and not have alcohol but that is personal choice – a choice I prefer to keep the freedom to exercise.
Pat, Wales

Agree (9) | Disagree (3)

One last comment (to Charles): I think we differ in our perception of the abilities of people in charge of vehicles! Driving tests are passed by 'normal' people - one does not have to be 'superhuman' to pass, nor therefore, to be able to carry on driving safely on the roads. Individuals do differ however and their sense of responsibility, desire to do things correctly, self-discipline and driving habits vary - that's the underlying problem you referred to.

To bring us back to the subject, those with self-discipline and the sense of responsibility don't drink alcohol at all if they're going to drive. How difficult can that be for an individual to implement?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (7) | Disagree (9)

Hugh, yes we've been here before, so I won't be lingering. But given that you are correct that some motorists cannot cut it, and that some motorists are luckier than others or more careful, or less careless, we must all surely realise by now that the infrastructure should be designed for use by "normal" human beings, and that as the frailties that you mention are part of being a "normal" human being, the infrastructure should cope with them and not rely for its safe operation on everyone being superhuman.

And yes I agree that the study of driver (and other road user) behaviour can be enlightening, indeed my decades of such study have revealed to me what a folly it is to try to regulate our way out of this problem when it is exactly the opposite of what will be effective. We only have to look at places such as Poynton to realise the potential massive benefits of deregulation.
Charles, England

Agree (6) | Disagree (4)

Pat: I took it that Bob was promoting zero alcohol content when driving, as an eventual law possibly - as the two don't mix - rather than suggesting we throw the book at a driver with some alcohol content, but still within the current limit(?). Tiredness and alcohol and driving mix even less but surely you weren't suggesting drinking and driving was more acceptable when not tired?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (3) | Disagree (6)

Charles: I think we've been here before and no doubt protracted debates cause groans amongst the readership, but whilst you're obviously right that accidents are more likely to happen at points of conflict e.g. junctions and crossings, the underlying problem is still the motorist - sober or not - some just can't cut it on the road i.e are careless and reckless. If it was just down to the infrastructure, there would be far more incidents. When you negotiate a junction, do you always collide with someone or are you careful enough to avoid a collision? Hopefully it's the latter, so logically those that did collide were not as careful as you or I. Time spent studying driver behaviour can be very enlightening and all becomes clear in the field of road safety!
Hugh Jones

Agree (7) | Disagree (7)

Hugh, Bob
Forgive me, but could you possibly be mixing and misinterpreting the issues?

I don't think anyone would disagree with the statement that we don’t NEED to drink alcohol to drive – but this issue is not about NEED. It is normally helpful to start where we are, rather than where you wish to be. We have a law in the UK that sets a maximum threshold for alcohol content whilst driving, whatever anyone may think about that.

I am OK with zero tolerance on driving whilst exceeding the legal alcohol level in the blood. You should expect the full force of the law if you get caught. I am OK with a positive road safety message that says “if you drink, don’t drive”. Fine with that.

But I am not OK with a zero tolerance attitude by some when others drive within the limits the law sets. That, perhaps, could be the reason for some clicking the disagree button?
Pat, Wales

Agree (14) | Disagree (1)

No Hugh, I didn't mean the motorists were the underlying problem. If anything, I believe they are the scapegoats, and using ever decreasing arbitrary limits to create technical offences to charge them with does nothing to tackle the real underlying problems. In fact it distracts from the real problems, and so road casualties will continue unabated - whilst motorists become increasingly demonised.

If motorists were the underlying cause, then the crash map would show a completely uniform pattern of dots across the whole of the road network - it doesn't however. What it does show are concentrations of dots around regulated features such as junctions and crossings. What it also shows is that, after certain junction changes, the crash pattern changes. That, to me, points to infrastructure design being the most significant underlying cause.
Charles, England

Agree (9) | Disagree (8)

We don't need to drink alcohol to drive and we know what effect it has on individuals' behaviour, so why are we even discussing how much should be 'permitted' - on a road safety forum of all places?

Bob Craven has probably seen the effects of alcohol and driving more than anyone here and yet his comment re not drinking and driving at all has so far had more 'disagrees' than 'agrees' - the former presumably from those in denial.

The standard of driving of some when sober is bad enough, why 'permit' the circumstances that would make it worse?

Charles asks for the underlying problems that lead to unsafe roads (meaning the motorists presumably) to be tackled, having unwittingly but nevertheless helpfully, already listed some of them i.e. "speeding, age (not sure that's an actual problem per se), phone use, licence/insurance infringements, alcohol content" - although I would have also added 'driving too close'.
Hugh Jones

Agree (7) | Disagree (7)

Without evidence that lower limits deliver safer roads, the last thing we need is yet another arbitrary limit dreamt up and used to penalise motorists whether they pose an actual danger or not. Each and every collision should be dealt with and investigated individually and all the environment/road/driver/vehicle factors should be dispassionately evaluated and considered to establish, as far as is technically possible, the actual reasons (there will rarely be only one) for the crash. If it can be proven that in the given circumstances the blood/alcohol level of the driver was a significant causal (rather than simply a passive and irrelevant) factor, then of course the driver should be held to account. However, if driver blood/alcohol level (even if > 50mg/ml) was irrelevant given all the other circumstances, then why scapegoat the driver? We seem overly keen to invent more and more excuses to blame the driver for something, anything - speeding, age, phone use, licence/insurance infringements, alcohol content - whether it is relevant to the crash or not, rather than admit and tackle the underlying problems that lead to unsafe roads. All IMHO, of course.
Charles, England

Agree (12) | Disagree (26)

It seems that we are making the point that any drink is indeed dangerous which it is. As a retired police officer I will stand by what I have said in the past. Zero limit on drink and driving and that includes motorcycle riding.

The only safe way when going out for a social gathering or with friends or family and other loved ones is to not drink any alcohol on that occasion. Or if indeed drinking, make arrangements for all to get home safe and sound.
Bob Craven Lancs

Agree (23) | Disagree (8)

Driving whilst unfit through drink or drugs does not require a limit to be breached, it requires the police officer (and eventually the police doctor...) to certify that the person has been drinking, and that due to their drinking they're unable to safely drive a vehicle/ride a motorbike. Understandably it's quite hard to get a conviction from such a thing however.

Also, Pat has hit the nail on the head.
David Weston, Corby

Agree (17) | Disagree (2)

Is it the feeling of the police, who encounter inebriated drivers, that the limit is too low? I wonder if they often feel frustrated when they breathalyse a suspected drink-driver, but find that he/she is just under the limit and they are obliged to let them go, even if they feel the person's driving is impaired.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (4) | Disagree (13)

I would like to see the limit lowered, but I would also like to see more traffic police on the streets to catch and breathalyse drivers.
VB London

Agree (19) | Disagree (9)

I find that small amounts of alcohol (1 bottle of beer) coupled with tiredness can normally be expected to produce a dramatic drop in my concentration level. This combination has much more effect than higher levels of alcohol consumption when not tired. "Research" carried out from the safety of my armchair. The point? - much more needs to be done about dealing with tiredness whilst driving – at least as much effort should be applied to this as goes into alcohol reduction campaigns.
Pat, Wales

Agree (23) | Disagree (1)