Transport Committee Report on Drink and Drug Driving Law

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

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

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

“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.”