Road Safety News

Lowering drink drive limit would divert police to the wrong offenders - Chris Grayling

Thursday 8th December 2016

Transport minister Chris Grayling has confirmed that the Government has no intention of lowering the drink-drive limit in England and Wales.

In an interview with the Evening Standard, Mr Grayling, who assumed the position in July, said lowering the limit from 80mg to 50mg per 100ml would divert police to the wrong offenders.

Road Safety GB says it is 'disappointed' with some of Mr Grayling's comments in the Standard article, and that it will continue to lobby for change to a lower drink drive limit.

Mr Grayling said: “We have a drink-drive problem, but it’s not people who had a glass of wine at the pub, it’s people who systematically flout the law.

“We have a fairly thinly stretched police force and we should concentrate on catching the serious offenders.”

Responding to his comments, Iain Temperton, Road Safety GB director of communications, said: "Road Safety GB's position for some time has been to support lowering the blood alcohol limit.

"As a first step, Road Safety GB wants the government to bring the limit down from 80mg in 100ml of blood to 50mg, which would then be in line with most European Union member states. Road Safety GB's board of directors is disappointed by the minister's comments and will continue to lobby for change."

There have been numerous calls from road safety campaigners for the rest of the UK to follow Scotland and move to the lower limit, but in February the road safety minister Andrew Jones dismissed reports that the Government was planning to reduce the limit.

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 stats prompted a coalition of road safety stakeholders, emergency services and health experts to once again call for the Government to reduce the limit in England and Wales on the premise that progress on drink-driving has stalled since 2010.

Mr Grayling has also come under fire from Brake, the road safety charity.

Gary Rae, campaigns director for Brake, said: “It is worrying that the man in charge of road safety appears to suggest that it’s ok to drink and drive. His remarks would be unacceptable at any time, but coming just before the Christmas festivities, makes them all the more irresponsible. It’s the wrong message, at the wrong time.

"Those who drink and drive up to our current limit are 13 times more likely to have a fatal crash than someone who is sober. 77% of the public want a lower limit as do the road safety community; Chris Grayling is clearly out of touch on this issue, and should choose his words far more carefully.”

In the Evening Standard interview, published on Tuesday (6 Dec), Mr Grayling also said motorists should not hope for a rise in the top speed limit to 80mph, insisting ‘It’s not on the agenda at the moment’.

He warned against the “zealous” use of speed bumps and said ministers were “watchful” of local authorities suspected of using bus lane cameras as cash cows.

On cycling, Mr Grayling criticised London’s cycle lanes, suggesting that too many are badly designed.

Adding that there are too many cyclists who ignore the rules of the roads, Mr Grayling said: “I don’t think all the cycle lanes in London have been designed as well as they should have been.

“There are places where they perhaps cause too much of a problem for road users and they could have been designed in a smarter way.”

“As transport secretary, I can only watch, because it is a matter for the mayor.”

Mr Grayling, a non-cyclist, said too many riders ignored red traffic lights on their journeys in the capital.

He added: “Motorists in London have got to be immensely careful of cyclists.

“At the same time, cyclists in London are too often unwilling to obey the road signs. I’ve seen regular examples of people who just bolt through red lights.”




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On a personal level it's quite simple. Taking one drink impairs my ability to control a vehicle if I am driving. It will affect me for several hours after I take it.

My choice therefore is how to balance that against the benefits which I get from taking that drink. Well it may be a pleasant taste which I experience foe a few seconds. It may well make me feel better which will be proportional to the degree of impairment.

When I compare the options of drinking or not drinking if driving then I make a personal decision not to drink.

The question for us all is whether we wish to take a societal rather than personal view. When the collective impairment is weighed against the collective benefits of taste and feelgood factor then what do we wish to do. Of course in doing so we need to recognise that those effected by the consequences of that impairment may often not be the ones experiencing the benefit.

With regard to Chris Grayling's comment "Motorists in London have got to be immensely careful of cyclists", can anyone tell me when this was not the duty of every motorist!

Merry Christmas
Rod King, Cheshire 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (5) | Disagree (3)

What is the real message to be found here? Carry on drinking & driving you are unlikely to get caught?
Gareth, Surrey

Agree (2) | Disagree (7)

What ifs? What if there are many drivers out there who have a total disregard for the law and the drink drive limit. After all, drinking beer is a cultural thing and we are entitled to have one more for the road. It's no so bad and as anti- social as some would think. Ask my mates. Being pleasantly drunk at Christmas time, a time of goodwill and good cheer to all men. So let's all have another just for the road. It's been about an hour since my last one. I don't get drunk like all those other drunken idiots as I can take more alcohol than they can. It doesn't have the same effect on me. Anyway I have little chance of being caught as there are not enough policemen around here to stop us all. Think I will have just one more. I am not drunk. I can handle a car. Don't need a taxi home...

Sorry officer. I just didn't see them. Are they going to be all right? They came out of nowhere.bbreath test ok? Wow, not over the limit, borderline. Thank Christ for that.

Merry Christmas. Honest it wasn't my fault. I just didn't see them. They gave me no chance to stop. Hope they are going to be all right. Can I go now. Am feeling a little nauseous. Not feeling to good.
Bob Craven Lancs

Agree (8) | Disagree (11)

Suppose for one minute that the figures instead showed that around 13% of all road deaths in 2014 involved a white vehicle. Would we immediately call for white vehicles to be outlawed to save lives? Some of us might first ask what proportion of all vehicles on the road are white, to help us evaluate the data. What if we found that 20% of all vehicles on the roads are white - and are thus significantly underrepresented in fatal collisions? Has anyone ever asked what percentage of all drivers on the roads are above the drink-drive limit?
Charles, England

Agree (14) | Disagree (7)

With reference to the mention of the "coalition of road safety stakeholders" and the health sector currently presiding over an estimated 200 preventable deaths a week, I think they need to get their own house in order before preaching to the road safety fraternity.
Gower Gold

Agree (12) | Disagree (2)

I think many people agree with the simple fact that if the legal drink drive limit was lower and if people complied with the new law, there would be fewer drink-affected drivers having collisions. The reality is that those are two very big 'ifs'. When going on a journey it is best to start from where you actually ARE rather than where you wish you were. Just changing the drink-drive limit law will probably mean that non-compliance levels would simply go up exponentially and of course we will never know just how drivers drinking at 'low levels' (previously legal) never get caught. Please don't bring in yet another law that will be dis-respected from day one as insufficient resources are available to enforce, we have enough of those types of laws already. That, I believe, is the Minister's message.
Pat, Wales

Agree (10) | Disagree (5)

I find it genuinely astounding that so many people on a news website aimed at providing news on Road Safety support Mr Grayling's comments regarding the drink drive limit.

Several others have commented stating that there are other problems with drivers, such as fatigue, drug driving and speeding. These are clearly issues that need to be tackled too, however, we also know that drinking alcohol has a negative effect on a drivers ability to drive, so why not reduce the amount that drivers can legally drink?
What seems to have been missed by Mr Grayling and some of the contributors to the comments section is the simple fact that driving after having consumed alcohol DOES have an effect on one's ability to drive. Whilst I concede that I do not have figures stating precisely how badly a person can be affected by consuming alcohol within the legal limit, I can with full confidence state that it does negatively affect one’s ability to drive. Based on this alone, I feel the statement “it’s not people who had a glass of wine at the pub” is very reckless, and agree with Mr Rae that this appears to suggest he is normalising drink driving.

Drink driving, in most age groups, socio-economic groups, and cultural groups is deemed anti-social. Why not lower the limit? It would likely reduce the amount of people drinking even one alcoholic beverage, and thus reduce the risk on the road posed by those drinking and driving, whilst not negatively affecting the previously highlighted issues of speeding, drug driving and fatigue.

I agree that it doesn’t target “people who systematically flout the law” it does without doubt, increase road safety.
James Fee, Nottingham

Agree (15) | Disagree (4)

About the only thing he got right was the following:- “We have a fairly thinly stretched police force.” And who is to blame for that?
Peter city of Westminster

Agree (16) | Disagree (4)

Unfortunately I cannot fully answer your question, but some poor quality initial ideas that popped into my mind include:

- Culture: it's a thing we've always done socially
- Environment: alcohol is used a lot in industry
- Hygiene: a lot of hygiene products are alcohol based
- Biology: certain fruits can ferment within us

The last reason is as far as I can recall, the main reason why countries like Sweden have a 0.02% limit as opposed to a zero% limit.

One particular statistic that gets banded about is that driving whilst tired is as bad as driving at the top end of the legal drink drive limit. So, like professional drivers have to endure, should there be mandatory rest periods for drivers of cars, vans and motorbikes? Or, a government mandated bed-time?

Something to think about.
David Weston, Corby

Agree (13) | Disagree (2)

Can anyone explain or defend why ANY alcohol in a driver's system should be tolerated and why drivers have traditionally been given an 'allowance' anyway? If, as has been said, alcohol affects individuals differently and its ability to impair is not in question, why risk crashes by allowing even 'just a little bit'? We're not a nation of alcoholics just yet.
Hugh Jones

Agree (16) | Disagree (11)

I agree with the minister with this regard.

It's not drink drive limits that are the problem, it's incapacitation through drink or drugs. Setting a limit arbitrarily lower isn't going to help fix the incapacitation issue, all it'll do is just affect more "ordinary" people. The case I often quote is a pair of chaps who died in a road accident, the driver was speeding, deemed over the proscribed alcohol limit and deemed stoned. Pray tell, reducing drink drive limits will help in this instance how exactly?

(in the interests of fairness to the other readers here I refuse to drive soon after a drink - I *am* unfit to drive after a pint or two of alcohol, however everyone is different)
David Weston, Corby

Agree (11) | Disagree (11)

Well he has some good ideas about some aspects of road safety but is a total imbecile when it comes to drink driving.
Bob Craven Lancs

Agree (11) | Disagree (12)

It's a bit like a speeder driving at 60mph through a town undetected, but who finally gets clocked by the police or a camera at 36mph - on paper it was 'only just over the speed limit'.

Equally, has the Minister considered the scenario where an individual who may actually been driving around for a while undetected whilst seriously over the current drink-drive limit eventually does get stopped, but by then the individual passes the current limit and is released - but would have failed a new lower limit and taken off the road? Both are offenders and both have eventually been detected (but not at their higher level of offending) but I would hope no-one would refer to either of them as the 'wrong offender'.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (9) | Disagree (7)

Good to hear such an unequivocal explanation of the Government's pragmatic and realistic position on the drink drive issue. David, you have mis-interpreted his message. Was that deliberate? Just because you don't agree with him, it's no justification for his resignation. I would promote him! We will have to agree to differ as I'm not going to get drawn into the normal round of arguments on this 'old chesnut'.
Pat, Wales

Agree (17) | Disagree (11)

I am stunned that a Transport Minister is so ill-informed that he considers it OK to drink & drive up to a certain level. Does he not know that any alcohol affects one's ability to make good decisions?

The Road Safety industry ought to, with one voice, be calling for his resignation.
David, Suffolk

Agree (19) | Disagree (18)