An influential panel of MPs has called for an “effectively zero” legal alcohol limit for drink-drivers, but only after an extensive public education campaign on booze strengths and their effects on the body.
In its report on drink and drug driving legislation, published today, the House of Commons Transport Committee suggests that it may be more cost effective to strengthen police enforcement of the current drink drive limit, which, at 80mg/100ml of blood, is one of the highest in the world.
But it says that: “In the long term, the government should aim for an ‘effectively zero’ limit of 20mg/100ml,” acknowledging that this would be “too great a step at this stage.”
And it states that any cut in the legal drink drive limit should only be considered after an extensive public education campaign, run jointly with the pub, restaurant and hospitality industries, on the different strengths of alcohol and its impact on the body. The government should look to other countries around the world that have successfully cut the limit to either 50 or 20mg/100ml, recommends the report.
The report contends that Britain’s drink driving policy has been successful, which it suggests, is largely down to the deterrent of a mandatory 12 month driving ban for those found in breach of the legal blood alcohol limit. This should be maintained, it says, but adds that enforcement “must be much more visible, frequent, sustained and well publicised.”
Britain has one of the lowest proportion of drivers who are breath tested—just 2% in 2008, compared with Norway, which has a 20mg legal limit, with a comparable rate of 57%. The European average is 16%. In 2008 almost one in four (18%) of all drivers killed in road accidents were over the legal limit.
The report calls on the government to strengthen police powers to enable preliminary breath tests to be carried out during enforcement procedures.
But the report says that drug driving is as much of an issue as drink driving, and recommends that the government develop a five year strategy to tackle this, which should include a high profile public education campaign and keeping to the commitment to install drug screening devices at every police station by 2012.
The government must also develop a roadside drug screening device and adopt a similar zero tolerance offence for drivers caught with high levels of illegal drugs in their blood.
The BMA’s Director of Professional Activities, Dr Vivienne Nathanson said: “The BMA has lobbied for a reduction in the drink-drive limit for over 20 years. We believe that such a move will help prevent deaths and reduce the number of lives ruined by drink-driving.”
She added: "A reduction in the limit would also bring the UK in line with most other European countries.