Government rules out lower drink-drive limit


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Indy Politics

Britain’s legal drink-drive limit will not be lowered, the Government said today, despite a recommendation by its own experts that it should be reduced.

Philip Hammond, the transport secretary, said he would not follow a recommendation in a Whitehall-commissioned report by Sir Peter North that the limit be reduced from 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg.

Mr Hammond said improving enforcement rather than lowering the limit was likely to have more impact on drivers who “flagrantly ignore” current regulations.

However Mr Hammond did approve a package of measures to tackle drug-driving as well as drink-driving.

Improved testing equipment to detect drivers who have taken drugs will be bought and the Government will also examine the case for a new specific drug-driving offence which would remove the need for the police to prove impairment on a case-by-case basis.

In his report, Sir Peter said that as many as 168 lives could be saved in the first year of a new, lower 50mg limit and as many as 303 lives could be saved by the sixth year.

But Mr Hammond chose to back the rural pub industry who bitterly opposed the plan while outlining measures to better enforce the existing laws.

These included revoking the right for people whose evidential breath test result is less than 40 per cent over the limit to opt for a blood test and approve portable evidential breath-testing equipment for the police.

On drug-driving the Government intends to approve preliminary drug-testing equipment - initially for use in police stations, and at the roadside as soon as possible.

The Home Office is currently testing six drug-testing devices and plans to take a decision on type-approval by the end of June.

They will also allow custody nurses to advise the police whether or not a suspected driver has a condition that may be due to a drug. This will remove the need to call out police doctors and so speed up the testing process - ensuring that drug-drivers do not escape punishment because a doctor is not available and also freeing up police time.

But Robert Gifford, executive director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, said he was disappointed by the overall Government approach.

“It is deeply disappointing that the Government has failed to take up this opportunity to save lives on our roads,” he said.

“According to the Department's own figures published last week, 85% agree that if someone has drunk any alcohol they should not drive. A new, lower limit would have helped to support that view, making clear that drinking and driving do not mix.”

Julie Townsend, campaigns director at road safety charity Brake, said: “These moves by the Government to address the scourge of drug-driving are incredibly important in tackling casualties and making our roads safer for everyone.

“We hope the Government will act quickly to implement a specific offence on drug-driving, and roadside testing, both of which are desperately needed.”

She went on: "However, we must not forget that drink-driving remains one of the biggest killers on our roads. It's therefore bitterly disappointing that the Government has chosen to ignore evidence showing that lowering our drink-drive limit and implementing random breath-testing would be highly effective in cutting these tragic, costly and preventable casualties.

“Quite simply, we need a zero tolerance approach to drink-driving - including a lower limit, and far more breath-testing - if we are to stamp out this deadly menace once and for all.”