Drink-drive limit may be cut by a third
By Steven Swinford DEPUTY POLITICAL EDITOR
THE drink-driving limit in England and Wales may be lowered significantly if a reduction imposed by the Scottish government proves to be a success, ministers have said.
In December 2014 Scotland lowered the drink-drive limit from 80mg per 100ml of blood to 50mg, equivalent to a pint of beer or large glass of wine for a man and half a pint of beer or a small glass of wine for a woman.
Doctors and road safety experts have been calling for England to follow suit amid concerns that the permitted level in this country is now among the highest in Europe. Previously the Government has said the limit in England and Wales “strikes an important balance between safety and personal freedom”.
But a response from Andrew Jones, the transport minister, to a written parliamentary question, suggested the Government may look at lowering the limit if the evidence from Scotland shows it has made roads safer.
Mr Jones said: “I am intending to discuss with the Scottish minister the experience of the lower limit in Scotland and the timescales to get access to robust evidence of the road safety impact. The Scottish experience will be crucial to that be- fore we consider any possible changes to the limits in England and Wales. This Government’s current position, however, remains to focus resources on enforcing against serious offenders.”
The number of drink-driving offences in Scotland has fallen significantly since the legal limit was lowered a year ago, according to Police Scotland. Offending in the nine months after December 2014 fell by 12.5 per cent compared with the same period the previous year. The total number of offences dropped from 4,208 to 3,682. Meanwhile, a survey has shown that 82 per cent of Scots believe drinking any alcohol before driving is unacceptable.
The RAC Foundation, a charity, published a report last year suggesting that 25 lives could have been saved if England and Wales had also adopted the lower limit. A reduction to 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood could also have prevented 95 people a year being seriously injured, it said.
Mr Jones later attempted to clarify his comments. He said: “Britain continues to have some of the safest roads in the world because we crack down on those who break the law, and the Government believes enforcement and serious penalties for drink-drivers are a more effective deterrent than changing the drinkdriving limit.”