Millions of drivers defying drink law

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The Independent Online
MORE THAN 2 million people drive while over the alcohol limit, according to new research.

A survey of 1,016 motoristsrevealed that despite numerous government campaigns and increased police checks a significant number of people continue to drink and drive. It also revealed a widely held belief that motorists were unlikely to be caught driving while under the influence of alcohol.

About 6 per cent of the motorists questioned - the equivalent of about 2.2 million people - admitted that they drove while over the limit "very often", "often", or "sometimes".

The authors of the report,writing in Police Review magazine, concluded: "Considering the fact that there are 36.4 million holders of full licences in the UK, a total of 6.1 per cent would indicate that the likely numbers of drink-drivers in the country is in excess of 2 million people. However, it may well be that the real figure is even higher than this if there is any reluctance on the part of our research sample to confess to behaviour which is widely regarded as irresponsible or anti-social."

The study also found that 70 per cent of motorists were in favour of increased police powers against drunk drivers.

The Government is currently considering whether to reduce the limit to the equivalent of about a pint of strong lager. Police chiefs are also pressing for increased powers to carry out breath tests.

For the new study, motorists at the north Wales port of Holyhead filled out anonymous questionnaires in autumn last year. The respondents came from all parts of the country.

Nearly one in five drivers agreed with the statement "I can have two or three drinks and still be safe on the road". The current limit is the equivalent of about two pints.

The authors of the report, Alun Waddon, of the University of Wales, Bangor, and Chief Supt Elfed Roberts, of North Wales police, added: "The evidence clearly shows that drink-drivers have a much greater tendency than the rest of the population to judge themselves as safe to drive after drinking."

Many drivers believed there was only a slim chance of being caught while drunk. About half of the drink-drivers in the survey felt the likelihood of detection was small, and more than 40 per cent of the law-abiding motorists also felt the police were unlikely to take effective action.

The Department of Environment, Transport, and the Regions is due to announce new measures to tackle drink-driving in the autumn. Among the plans are expected to be the reduction of the alcohol limit from the current 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood to 50mg. The Government is also believed to be sympathetic to the idea of relaxing breath-test restrictions.