Drink driving limits should be lowered, road safety campaigners have urged, after a rise in deaths involving drivers who were over the limit.  

The calls for urgent change come after new government figures showed an increase in the number of people killed in crashes where one driver was over the drink drive limit, to 250 in 2017, up 7% from the previous year, and the highest level since 2009. In addition, road safety charity Brake revealed that more than 5,000 drivers have been caught drink driving on two or more occasions in the past four years. Shockingly, one drink driver was caught six times in the same period.

Road safety campaigners argue that even drivers who drink below the legal limits may be putting themselves and others at risk. Some are arguing for limits to be lowered, while others are arguing for a zero-tolerance policy towards drinking alcohol and driving.

Lowering alcohol limits isn’t the only tool that could be used to prevent drink driving. Road safety charity IAM RoadSmart suggests that all drivers convicted of drink-driving should be automatically sent on a rehabilitation course. It also wants extra penalties, such as vehicle forfeiture, as used in Scotland, and further use of ‘alco-locks’. These devices prevent cars from starting, unless the driver has passed a breath test. The Government is already funding a study to investigate their effectiveness in preventing convicted drink-drivers from re-offending.

Limits vary across the UK

The legal alcohol limit varies across the UK. In Scotland the limit is 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. Whereas, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland the limit is higher, at 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. There are plans to lower the limit in Northern Ireland, but not in England or Wales.

Joshua Harris, director of campaigns at Brake, said: “The current drink driving limit gives a false impression that it is safe to drink and drive – this is a dangerous message and one that couldn’t be further from the truth. Research has shown even very small amounts of alcohol dramatically affect safe driving. The Government must act now to tackle the blight of drink driving by implementing a zero-tolerance limit, making clear to drivers that not a drop of alcohol is safe.”

Research has shown that the public would support lower alcohol limits. A survey published by Public Health England in 2016 found that over three quarters of people (77%) are in favour of drink driving laws being changed to reduce the allowed alcohol limit. 

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