Hard core of drivers ignoring drink limit

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The Independent Online

More drivers involved in crashes over the Christmas and New Year period failed breathalyser tests than in 2002-03.

Police said 8.9 per cent of motorists tested after accidents were over the legal limit compared to 8.7 per cent the year before.

The figures, from the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), prompted renewed calls for the Government to lower the blood alcohol limit for driving in line with most European Union countries. Police said the statistics showed they had achieved their goal of reducing the number of serious accidents caused by drink-driving, as the number of "injury collisions" during the two-week festive period fell by 4.5 per cent to 5,002.

The total number of breath tests deemed necessary by police fell by 6.2 per cent, while the number of drink-related collisions fell by 4 per cent to 1,035. But the proportion of drivers testing positive after a collision rose. The figure has been rising steadily over the past five years and is now approaching the 9 per cent breath-test failure rate in 1997, when a new system of measurement was introduced.

An Acpo spokesman said: "The good news is that we have cut down on the number of serious collisions but the bad news is we are still seeing a hard core of drink drivers." Richard Brunstrom, Acpo's head of road policing, said: "I believe that it is time the Government followed the European Commission recommen- dation of a lower blood alcohol limit of 50mg [compared with Britain's limit of 80mg] and extended police powers to enable the use of intelligence to target and prosecute offenders."

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said such a move would save about 50 lives a year.