The trouble with discussing the relationship between alcohol and driving is that the basic principles are so technical. Once you start talking about milligrams of alcohol per millilitres of blood most people are lost.
That is a shame, because the outcome of the debate is quite literally a matter of life and death, particularly as the government has decided against reducing the legal limit for alcohol in a driver’s blood. This is despite suggestions it could save 65 lives a year. The government had previously planned to cut the limit from 80 to 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. Cutting the limit to 50 milligrams – equivalent to about half a pint of beer – would put drivers at risk of prosecution after just one drink, and bring them in line with Europe. But Road Safety Minister Jim Fitzpatrick has now said that the consultation document on plans to reduce drink-driving, to be published this month, will not recommend the reduction. According to â€˜The Timesâ€™, he said “we are not convinced that dropping to 50 is the right answer. Drivers who are between 50 and 80mg are not the ones we’re most worried about. It’s the ones above 100.” He said his focus would now be on better enforcing the existing limit. Police could be given new powers to stop and test drivers at random rather than needing to suspect an offence is being committed.
Road safety campaigners have accused the Government of backtracking. The proposed reduction had been supported by the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. Andrew Howard, head of road safety at the AA, said that the motoring organisation used to oppose any lowering of the limit but had changed its position recently. The BMA’s Head of Science and Ethics, Dr Vivienne Nathanson, told BBC News that the BMA believed a reduction in the drink-drive limit would prevent deaths and reduce the number of lives ruined by drinking drivers. â€œThere is clear evidence of the link between rising blood alcohol concentrations and dangerous driving behaviour,â€ and she added that a new impetus was needed to reduce the toll of injury and death.
Ben Webster, writing in â€˜The Timesâ€™, suggests that â€œby leaving the alcohol limit unchanged, the Government will avoid the awkward question of whether to introduce a lower penalty for registering just over 50mg. At present, anyone caught drink-driving serves a minimum ban of 12 months. Most countries that have lower limits only fine drivers and give them penalty points for minor breaches.â€