Time for a zero limit on drink-driving?

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Offences of driving while over the prescribed alcohol level - drink driving - are unusual in the way in which they are perceived.

Some do not see it as a crime labelling it as a motoring offence.

This attitude may prevail as we have one of the highest drink drive limits in Europe. If it is permissible to have high levels of alcohol in your system and still drive, supposedly safely, then these attitudes are unlikely to change.

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There have been many campaigns over the years against drink driving, some of them being extremely graphic and hard hitting, but there is little evidence to suggest they have been effective. There is good reason why it is a criminal offence to drink drive. Last year there were 1,780 deaths on Britain’s roads, and of those deaths 240 involved drink drivers.

John Halewood DoddJohn Halewood Dodd
John Halewood Dodd

Scotland, which has its own legal system, has been seeking to address this and in 2014 reduced the permitted level of alcohol for drivers. There’s are now almost one third less than we have in England, but in line with the majority of the rest of Europe.

The change has reduced the number of drink driving offences in Scotland dramatically. Given that 14 per cent of all road deaths in Britain were caused by drunk drivers this will undoubtedly make Scottish roads safer.

Perhaps of more significance is that the mentality of the Scottish people has altered. A recent survey in a country that is justifiably regarded as having a drinking culture found 82 per cent of Scots now said any drinking before driving is unacceptable. With road safety campaigners and the medical profession arguing the rest of Britain should follow suit a head of steam seems to be gathering. The Roads Minister has said he is to sit down with his Scottish counterpart to discuss the situation.

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It may well be we see a change in the law making it a criminal offence to drive with even small amounts of alcohol in the system. The reduced limits in Scotland suggest any more than a pint of beer or glass of wine are likely to be over the limit. It seems to me that it would be difficult to argue against such a reduction.