The UK Government should “assess the experiences of other countries that have lowered their legal blood alcohol limit”, according to the House of Commons Transport Committee.
Their latest report on road traffic law enforcement examines the progress made with drink and drug-driving, named as one of “The Fatal 4” elements of road safety.
It finds that although the proportion of drink-driving deaths has been falling steadily over the past decade, the 1,340 people killed/seriously injured in drink-drive collisions in 2013 is “a matter of great concern”. The report also cites Scotland as an example of how the UK Government might improve road safety.
The current legal blood alcohol limit for the rest of the United Kingdom is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. Scotland lowered its limit to 50mg / 100ml on 9 December 2014, and witnessed a 12.5% fall in drink-driving offences during the first nine months following its introduction.
Lowering the current drink-drive limit to 50mg / 100ml for the rest of the UK would improve road safety and save hundreds of lives a year, according to the North Report, a government-commissioned review into drink-driving published in 2010. The Committee paper also states that “the public mood is supportive of the current limit being reduced to 50mg / 100ml”, as reflected in several opinion polls – the Alcohol Health Alliance, the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the charity BRAKE have all independently found levels of public support to be between 70 – 80%.
However, since 2010, the government position has been to prioritise stricter law enforcement of current drink-drive laws over lowering the limit. The Road Traffic Act 1988 (Alcohol Limits) (Amendment) Bill – which is making its way through the House of Lords – passed the first sitting of the Committee stage on Friday 11 March.
During the session, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Transport) remarked of the Bill that: “The Government believes that rigorous enforcement and serious penalties for drink-drivers, particularly these dangerous individuals, are a more effective deterrent than changing the drink-drive limit.”
Although he said the government would “remain interested to see the substantial evidence base from the changes made in Scotland”, he reiterated that “lowering the limit in itself is not going to change people’s behaviour and would not be the best use of resources to improve safety on our roads at this time.”
The Commons Transport Select Committee Second Report of Session 2015–16, road traffic law enforcement (HC 518), is available to download from the Transport Committee’s website.