LETTERS: Drink and driving below the limit

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From Mr D. Scougal Sir: Contrary to P. W. Sitch's assertion (letter, 3 January) it is not the police who are over the limit. Yes, only 4.6 per cent of drivers tested were over the limit, but this does not per se imply an indiscriminate stopping policy. The police can and do test drivers involved in accidents, drivers who have contravened road traffic signs or whose driving behaviour gives grounds for considering the driver may have consumed alcohol or drugs.

All of these persons have brought themselves to the notice of police officers who then test them. These citizens have not been detained unnecessarily; they will have been involved in accidents or reported or cautioned for driving offences. Many will havereceived a warning regarding their driving and their proximity to nearly failing the breath test.

There is no power for the police to pursue a random or indiscriminate drink-drive stopping policy. If there were, doubtless a greater percentage of those tested would subsequently be charged.

A large number of those who are arrested on a roadside breath test and are later subject of an evidential test at the police station in fact pass the test and are released even though the levels of alcohol recorded are legal, they are still high enough to impair driver reaction times.

The real answer is for the legal limit to be zero: no drinking and driving. There would indeed be "widespread concern" about any proposal to introduce this measure and in particular about the "civil liberties" of citizens. What regard for the civil liberty of the victims of hit and run accidents does the drunk driver have?

Yours sincerely, D. SCOUGAL Chief Inspector Washington Area Command Northumberland Police Washington Tyne & Wear 3 January