Combating Drink-Driving – Next Steps A Consultation Document

Letter to Lord Whitty

Since the end of the consultation period, 20 months have
elapsed during which time the Government has been able to formulate
policy with regard to life saving and injury preventing road safety
measures, particularly in relation to a lower legal limit and police
powers to enforce the law.

We are greatly concerned that so far no measures have been
announced, let alone implemented, and meanwhile casualties from drink
driving continue at an unacceptably high level. We are puzzled to know
why a Government which has acted decisively in regard to rail safety
delays tackling a problem which is numerically much greater, especially
as the Consultation Document confirms that the Government was already
minded to lower the legal alcohol limit two years ago.

ACPO has estimated that nine deaths a week, equivalent to one
Paddington rail disaster each month, still occur on our roads due to
drinking and driving. Road ministers do not need the courage of Barbara
Castle to implement a measure which would reduce these deaths. All the
indications are that the majority of the public fully support the needed
measures, including a lowering of the legal limit.

There have been no significant changes since the Government
first stated its intention of lowering the limit. The scientific case
for this measure retains its validity and, significantly, the police at
the front line of preventing drink driving have maintained their
position.

You have stated that you need to tackle the ‘hard core’. As we
pointed out in our submission, there is good scientific evidence to
show that reducing the limit affects drivers at higher as well as lower
blood alcohol levels. Your Consultation Document estimates a saving of
50 lives in the 50 – 80 mg range. There is no reason to doubt that
similar numbers may be saved amongst those above 80 mgs, if the results
in other jurisdictions when the law was changed were to be replicated in
the UK.

The Consultation Document mentions that there should be a
speeding up of cases coming before the courts. The recent implementation
by magistrates of the Neary proposals has achieved this. There remains,
however, the important issue of a bail condition regarding the removal
of a licence where there is delay in reaching a verdict and an interim
disqualification cannot be given. A change in the Bail Act to provide
for this would counter those who simply wish to delay the process of
law.

However the vital question remains. If the Government is not
prepared to introduce a lower limit, what effective alternative weapons
do you have in your armoury which have not already been tried, to tackle
the so called “hard core”?

Derek Rutherford