Police call for Drink-Drive limit to be slashed in England and Wales

22nd June 2015

Following the success of a similar move in Scotland, the police in England and Wales are now calling for the Government to dramatically cut the drink-driving limit in England and Wales.

According to The Police Federation of England and Wales, which represents over 124,000 police constables, sergeants and inspectors; the reduction in Scotland’s blood-alcohol limit led to an immediate fall in failed breathalyser tests.

The Federation association is now calling for the limit in England and Wales to be cut from 80mg per 100ml of blood, to 50mg, in line with the majority of EU countries.

Speaking on behalf of Police Federation, Victoria Martin said that the call for the reduction was part of its attempt to put “road safety back on the national and local agenda.”

Currently the highest in Europe

England, Wales, Ireland, Luxembourg and Malta currently have the highest limit in Europe at 0.8mg per millilitre of blood. The limit in the majority of EU countries, including Germany, France, Belgium and Italy sits at 0.5mg, however in countries such as the Czech Republic, there is a zero tolerance policy on drink-driving.

Zero Tolerance Czech Republic, Serbia (learners, professional drivers and motorcyclists only) Germany (professional drivers and young drivers under the age of 21 only)
0.2 mg per ml Norway, Poland, Sweden, Estonia, Malta, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, Cyprus (South)
0.3 mg per ml Serbia (excluding learners, professional drivers and motorcyclists – see above), Germany (in the case of an accident – see below)
0.4 mg per ml Lithuania
0.5 mg per ml Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany (reduced to 0.3 in the case of an accident – zero tolerance for professional drivers and young drivers under the age of 21), Finland France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Scotland, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, Cyprus (North), Switzerland
0.8 mg per ml England, Wales, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta

Brake also reported that following the law change in the Scotland, the number of drink drivers detected immediately fell by 19%.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive at the road safety charity Brake, said “Brake agrees with the Police Federation that the UK drink-drive limit – one of the highest in Europe – needs to be lowered.”

The road to zero-tolerance?

Townsend also said that "We [Brake] welcome the new lower limit in Scotland as a positive stepping stone towards zero-tolerance: the evidence shows that a tough approach helps prevent casualties." Motoring Lawyer, Jeanette Miller believes that lowering the limit in Scotland has “eradicated the ‘one for the road’ culture, so that most responsible drivers do not touch a drop of alcohol when they know they will be driving."

She also believes that it would be a good idea for the UK to copy other European countries such as Germany who have effective zero alcohol limits for professional drivers, such as bus drivers, and drivers under the age of 21.

She goes on to explain that the major problem in the UK is a lack of understanding amongst motorists on what is a “safe” amount to drink.

"There has to be a more concentrated effort to educate motorists about drink-driving limits before they potentially criminalise thousands of drivers by lowering the limit."

Female attitudes are not changing

Although men still account for the majority drink-drive convictions in the UK, research has shown that the conviction rate for males has halved over the last 10 years, whereas the rate for women has remained roughly the same.

“We’ve seen a steep decline in men drink-driving over the years, with targeted advertising campaigns, which is great, but women don’t seem to be getting the same message.” Explains Martin.

In 2012, 17% of those convicted were women, this rate was just 9% in 1998.

"It seems we have a worrying trend with females still flouting the drink-drive limit, sometimes scarily unaware, putting themselves and others in danger."

Perceptions need to change

Social Research Associates recently studied female attitudes towards drink driving and found that a third of women believed that they would be under the limit after drinking a pint of 5% ABV lager.

Although a person’s blood-alcohol level is influenced by a number of other factors, this amount could easily push the level over the legal limit.

"Some women in the study even admitted trying to drive 'extra carefully' but this is no solution.” Explains Kris Beuret of Social Research Associates. "Getting caught is a real risk and there is almost always an alternative."

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