London Evening Standard (UK) – Transport minister rejects move to halve drink-drive limit

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Ministers are set to reject an official report calling for the drink drive limit to be halved, the Evening Standard has learned.
Transport Secretary Philip Hammond is expected to rule that it would be too damaging to rural pubs despite evidence that tougher laws would save hundreds of lives.
An insider said: “The minister is very sceptical indeed about this idea. He is far from convinced that it would be a good thing.”
A formal review of the drink-drive laws by academic and legal expert Sir Peter North reported in June with 51 recommendations, including one suggesting the alcohol limit be cut from 80mg per 100ml of blood to 50mg.

That would effectively create a “one pint or you’re banned” rule, with the same mandatory 12-month driving ban as now and put Britain closer in line with many other European countries.

Mr Hammond, a Conservative and motoring enthusiast, greeted Sir Peter’s report as “a serious piece of work” but delayed a decision so that he could commission research into the likely impact on beleaguered country pubs.

The drinks industry argues that cutting the limit would put people off driving to rural pubs and restaurants yet would do nothing to change the behaviour of the minority of drunks who already flout the law.

Alcohol-related road deaths in Britain stand at 17 per cent of all road fatalities. Sir Peter’s report suggested up to 300 deaths could be avoided each year if the law was changed,
Britain’s 80mg limit is much higher than other European countries including Germany, France, Holland, Spain and Italy where 50mg is the maximum.

However, accident statistics are not always better in those countries. In France the proportion of fatalities where alcohol is a factor is 27.3 per cent. Sweden has a limit of only 20mg but the figure is still 16.1 per cent. In Hungary, where there is a zero limit, 8.7 per cent of road deaths are alcohol-related.

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “We have broadly favoured a reduction in the drink-drive limit to bring us into line with most of Europe.

“Drink-driving campaigns have been successful but education alone has not been completely successful in eradicating what many see as anti-social behaviour. Research suggests 65 lives a year would be saved by a change, though it is unlikely such a policy would encourage hardened offenders – those already way above the current limit – to alter their habits.”


Source: London Evening Standard (UK), 23/08/10