In its first report to the new parliament, the Transport Committee is calling on ministers to strengthen police enforcement of the drink-drive limit. They also call on ministers to retain the current 12-month mandatory disqualification minimum penalty.

Launching the report, committee chair Louise Ellman said:

“We believe the government should learn from the experience of other countries which have successfully reduced drink drive casualties by ensuring enforcement was robust. We are also calling for the police to be given an additional power to require preliminary breath tests as part of any designated drink drive enforcement operation.

We do believe enforcement of drink drive law in Great Britain must become much more visible, frequent, sustained and well-publicised. 

 We believe stronger enforcement must be coupled with an extensive Government education campaign—focused on the strength of alcoholic drinks and their effect in the body—run in conjunction with the pub, restaurant and hospitality industry.”

18% of all drivers killed in road accidents are over the drink-drive limit (In 2007, based on coroners’ data.).

But only approximately 3% of drivers in the UK are stopped and tested for alcohol compared to the European average of 16%.

The committee calls for the police to be given an additional power (under the Road Traffic Act 1988) to permit preliminary breath tests as part of any designated drink drive enforcement operation.

Currently, the police may stop any vehicle but can only test the driver’s breath if there is an element of suspicion. (Police may request a preliminary alcohol breath test when they reasonably suspect that the driver has either alcohol in their body, been involved in an accident or committed a traffic offence)

MPs conclude that the success of Great Britain’s drink driving policy to date is largely attributable to the deterrent effect of the current 12-month mandatory disqualification penalty.

The committee also calls on the Government to improve the detection of drug driving and to strengthen public perception about the likelihood of drug drivers being caught by the police.

The committee notes it as “unfortunate” that a drug screening device has not been ‘type-approved’ some seven years after police were granted the legal power to use them.

However, MPs welcome the Government’s commitment to install drug screening devices in every police station by 2012 and pledges to monitor progress on this issue.

MPs likewise caution that this interim measure should not eclipse the Government’s aim over the medium-term to develop and type-approve a drug screening device for use at the roadside, drawing on relevant experience of doing this in the other parts of the world.

Report on drink-driving does not go far enough, says BMA

Responding to the Transport Committee’s report (England) on drink-drive casualties launched today (Thursday 2 December 2010), the BMA’s Director of Professional Activities, Dr Vivienne Nathanson said:

“While the BMA is pleased that the Committee supports action to reduce drink-drive casualties, we are disappointed that it has not called for a reduction in the drink-drive limit.  We disagree with the Committee that a reduction in the limit would send out mixed messages.

The BMA has lobbied for a reduction in the drink-drive limit for over twenty years.  We believe that such a move will help prevent deaths and reduce the number of lives ruined by drink-driving.

A reduction in the limit would also bring the UK in line with most other European countries.  The BMA’s policy is based on the best available evidence on the effects of alcohol on driving.”

Download full report here (pdf 1.6mb)