Decision not to lower drink-drive limit 'astonishing'

The announcement that England and Wales will not to follow Scotland's lead on lowering the drink-drive limit have been met with disbelief by experts.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 15th February 2016, 12:55 pm
Updated Monday, 15th February 2016, 1:00 pm
Drink Drive limits around Europe differ from those in England and Wales
Drink Drive limits around Europe differ from those in England and Wales

Following the Department for Transport’s announcement that they have no immediate plans to lower the drink-drive limit in England and Wales to the same as Scotland’s, alcohol safety experts have referred to the news as “astonishing” and stated that the Department for Transport is ignoring the facts.

Suzannah Robin, alcohol safety expert at AlcoDigital, which works with corporate and governmental organisations implementing alcohol testing policies, said: “We are astonished and frustrated that the Department for Transport chooses to continue to isolate England and Wales from having safer roads and experiencing fewer drink-drive related deaths.

“Given the unity across Europe, where every country has now reduced the drink-drive limit to the same as Scotland’s, it has been proven over and over again that a lower drink-drive limit significantly improves road safety and reduces drink-drive related deaths yet the Department for Transport continues to ignore this.”

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In 2014 alone, Department for Transport figures showed alcohol accounted for 5,650 accidents and 8,320 casualties on UK roads.

Scotland decreased its drink-drive limit in line with other European countries in December 2014 and Police Scotland figures show drink-drive offences fall by 12.5 per cent as a result, dropping from 4,208 to 3,682 compared with the same period the previous year.

Suzannah continued: “It is a scary thought that the drink-drive limit in England and Wales is the highest in Europe for not only private drivers but also commercial drivers who are permitted to operate vehicles such as HGVs and buses at a level four times higher than the rest of Europe.”

In France, where the drink-drive limit has been the same as Scotland’s for many years, and there is zero tolerance for commercial drivers, fatalities have seen a dramatic decrease and fell by a further 8 per cent in 2013 following the introduction of a breathalyzer law.

Suzannah added: “Although we support the government’s focus on rigorous enforcement for drink-drivers we cannot ignore the facts – there are still too many deaths from drink-driving in England and Wales and too many families are suffering the consequences of losing loved ones. By not reducing the drink-drive limit the Department for Transport is effectively playing with people’s lives.”

But the Department for Transport believes that the current limit strikes a balance between safety and personal freedom, and avoids criminalising members of the public who drink a small amount a long time before driving.

In response to the criticism, Road Safety Minister Andrew Jones said: “We have no plans to change the drink drive limit. There is no review.

“The Government believes rigorous enforcement and serious penalties for drink drivers are a more effective deterrent than changing the drink driving limit.

“Britain continues to have some of the safest roads in the world because we crack down on those who break the law.”

Regardless of the debate over the drink-drive limit, the government’s advice on the matter remains unchanged: Don’t take the risk by driving after you have had a drink.