Review urged on drink limits

THE LEGAL limit for drink-driving could be reviewed, Robert Key, the minister for roads, said yesterday at the launch of the Christmas campaign.

Those attending were shown a video demonstrating that driving ability is impaired even when very low levels of alcohol have been consumed and Mr Key made clear his belief that 'the only safe limit is zero'.

He said he would listen to any representations on the matter, which was last reviewed in 1991, but stressed that Britain's current limit of 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres was 'very much in line with those in the rest of the EC'. Legislation had to be practical. 'It's no good having a law to do the impossible,' he warned.

Mr Key said attitudes had changed in the past decade: 'It is no longer acceptable to have one for the road, but it is now acceptable to go to a party and drink soft drinks.' In 1979, 51 per cent of people admitted drinking and driving at least once in the previous week, compared with 29 per cent now.

This year's television advertisement takes on the theme by showing a woman at a Christmas party whose boyfriend has an accident after stopping off at his sister's for a quick drink.

The Department of Transport expects about 80 drink-related road deaths in the Christmas period, out of a total of 600 annually. That total has fallen from 1,500 in the early 1980s. The commercial is part of a pounds 1m campaign which includes a poster headed: 'Drinking and Driving Wrecks Christmas'.

Edmund King, the RAC's campaigns manager, suggested that it was a mistake to target the advertisement at 18 to 30-year-olds. 'The typical drink-driver is more likely to have been at the golf club than the rave club. He will be driving an expensive saloon rather than a racer and expecting not to be stopped by the police.'

Mr King also warned drivers to be alert about drunk pedestrians: 'A third of pedestrians killed on the roads are found to have been over the limit,' he said

The launch of the campaign coincided with the release of figures by Alcohol Concern showing that convicted drink-drivers are shunning official rehabilitation programmes, largely because of the expense, even though they can earn 'remission' on their ban. Consequently, fewer courses - which cost between pounds 50 and pounds 200 - are being run than expected.