Drink- and drug-driving recommendations come under scrutiny
Published by Sir Peter North, the so-called North Review on drink and drug driving commissioned by the Department for Transport has recommended that the UK drink drive limit be cut to 50mg alcohol per 100ml blood. This is the maximum limit recommended by the European Commission – the current limit is 80mg per 100ml blood.
In addition the report, which is the first major review of drink and drug driving law since 1976, recommends giving the police greater powers to check for drink drivers and also advises that the automatic 12-month driving ban for a drink-drive offence should be maintained for the lower limit.
It also calls for the removal of the statutory option for drivers caught with a breath alcohol reading of between 40 and 50mg of alcohol per 100 mls of breath to give a blood sample.
The IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists) has welcomed the proposal of a new lower drink-drive limit, but stresses that enforcement will be the key factor that determines its success.
IAM director of policy and research Neil Greig said: 'Authorities should be aware that, should it pass into law, a new limit will make little difference to casualty figures without proper enforcement. Already stretched front line police may end up pursuing lower risk drivers, leaving less time to catch those who blatantly ignore any limit.
'A lower limit will hopefully make many more drivers think twice about drinking at all before getting behind the wheel. Drivers will also be more likely to get caught the morning after, but only if sufficient police are out there enforcing the law.
'Many repeat offenders think they’re invincible, and ultimately it is fear of being caught that will eradicate drink driving rather than stronger penalties.'
Yet according to Brake, the recommended cut in the drink-drive limit does not go far enough and would still leave drivers in confusion over "how much is too much".
Julie Townsend, Brake's deputy chief executive, said: 'Sir Peter North has missed a fantastic opportunity to make far-reaching recommendations to Government based on the evidence at hand. It makes no sense to lower the drink drive limit to 50mg/100ml blood when even Government campaigns are sending out the message that you shouldn't drink any alcohol before getting behind the wheel. Let's get the message straight so there can be no confusion – let's make the limit 20mg alcohol or less, an effective zero tolerance approach.'
However, Brake did praise the recommendation in the North Review that police procedures for current drug-driving laws should be stepped up.
She added: 'We welcome Sir Peter's recognition that new laws are needed on drug driving combined with urgent roll-out of existing drug screening technology and development of evidential roadside testing devises for drugs.
'No one needs to drive after drinking or taking impairing drugs – it's high time we stamped it out once and for all. We all know it makes no sense and results in the needless death and injury of many people every year.'