The current drink-drive limit will not be lowered, the Government has announced.
A limit of 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood has been in force since drink-drive laws were introduced in 1967, but a 2010 report by Sir Peter North called for a cut to 50mg/100ml limit amid claims that such a move would save 168 lives in the first year, rising to 303 lives annually after six years.
However, transport secretary Philip Hammond revealed today that the drink-drive limit will not be changed, instead he outlined plans to streamline the enforcement of current drink-driving laws, along with the introduction of a more robust scheme to rehabilitate offenders and a study into introducing specific drug-driving laws.
Why the limit won't be lowered
In its response to Sir Peter North's report, the Government said: 'We do not believe that widening the scope of the drink-drive offence by lowering the limit is consistent with our approach [of improving enforcement and education].
'It has various operational and practical difficulties; and imposes social and economic costs, which we do not consider, on the present evidence, to be matched by potential benefits.'
What the Government will do
• Revoke the right for people whose evidential breath test result is less than 40% over the limit to opt for a blood test (the 'statutory option').
The test equipment used in police stations is now very accurate and technically sophisticated, so a blood sample is not needed to confirm the breath test. The need to organise a blood sample can mean that drivers who were over the limit when originally tested have dropped below the limit by the time their blood sample is taken removing the statutory option will eliminate this loophole.
• Introduce a more robust drink-drive rehabilitation scheme, so that the authorities can require those drink-drivers who are substantially in excess of the limit to take remedial training and a linked driving assessment before recovering their licence.
• Approve portable breath-testing kits to speed up the testing process and free up police time.
• Close a loophole used by high-risk offenders to delay their medical examinations.
• Streamline the procedure for testing drink-drivers in hospital.
Earlier this month, What Car? called for the drink-drive limit to be reduced to effectively zero (20mg/100ml) after our research showed the difficulty in judging drink-drive limits.
However the Government agreed with the North Report, which rejected a zero limit because it saw little evidence that drivers with low blood-alcohol concentrations were a problem group in terms of casualties; and it would risk alienating public support for drink-drive legislation.
The Government said it will approve preliminary drug-testing equipment initially for use in police stations, and at the roadside as soon as possible.
The Home Office is currently testing six drug-testing devices and hopes to be able to take decisions on type-approval by the end of June.
It will also allow custody nurses to advise the police whether or not a suspected driver has a condition that may be due to a drug. This will speed up the testing process ensuring that drug drivers do not escape punishment because a doctor is not available and also freeing up police time.
Finally, the Government will examine the case for a new specific drug-driving offence alongside the existing one which would remove the need for the police to prove impairment on a case-by-case basis where a specified drug has been detected.