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Mixed reaction to Police Federation call for lower drink-drive limit

The call is being made at the Police Federation’s annual conference, being held in Bournemouth this week, with Victoria Martin from the Federation saying: “We would like to see a lower drink-drive limit, as most other European countries have, as well as Scotland, which saw a marked reduction in failed breathalyser tests as soon as the law was changed last year.”

Announced at the same time as new research showing that the drink driving message is not getting through to women, the new proposals were welcomed by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).

Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at RoSPA, said: “One of RoSPA’s long-standing campaigns is for the drink-drive limit to be lowered from 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg across the whole of the UK, so we are pleased to see the Police Federation taking up this cause.

“In 2012, 80 pedestrians were killed or seriously injured by drink drivers, as were 360 car passengers. 50 children were killed or seriously injured by drink drivers that year.

“England and Wales should follow Scotland’s example and lower its drink-drive limit. We are sure this would help to save lives and prevent injuries on our roads.”

Meanwhile Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, the road safety charity, added: “Brake agrees with the Police Federation that the UK drink drive limit – one of the highest in Europe – needs to be lowered. We would like to see an effective zero-tolerance limit of 20mg alcohol per 100ml blood. This would make it clear that even small amounts of alcohol affect your ability to drive safely, and end the widespread confusion over whether it’s safe and acceptable to have one or two drinks and drive. Research is clear that even very small amounts of alcohol impair, hence it should always be ‘none for the road’ – not a drop.”

And Graham Hurdle, managing director of online driver training specialist E-Training World, agreed that the proposals should include a lower limit, saying that simply reducing to 50mg sends a confused message to motorists.

Commenting on Brake’s response to the news, Hurdle said: “I agree with them that we should be dealing with the matter once and for all and sending a clear message to all motorists that you must never drink and drive.

“If you imagine the scenario of someone who drives to a pub currently and has a pint under the 80mg law, that same person will now be wondering whether they can ‘risk’ having the same pint under the 50mg law.

“Why are we placing that indecision and risk-taking in people’s minds? If the law is made clear that any amount of alcohol takes you over the limit, then law-abiding drivers will know they cannot have a drink, without any need for chancing it or making a decision over whether to drink or not.”

Hurdle also believes that the Government should be doing far more to raise awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving, and that the fall in convictions in Scotland has had as much to do with the publicity that surrounded its implementation as it did with the law itself being changed. 

He added: “A 20mg law would, however, put England and Wales on the map globally and the resultant publicity could finally help to change people’s attitudes and behaviours once and for all.” 

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.