Reduction in drink-driving limit draws closer

March 15, 2010 | By | In News

New laws could mean you'd be over the limit and facing conviction after just one drinkNew tougher laws on drink-driving now look ever more likely. An official review of the law now looks certain to recommend a cut in the legal blood/alcohol limit from 80mg to 50mg. This would bring the UK in line with most western European countries – and would also meant that drinking a pint of beer or a glass of wine could be enough to put most drivers over the limit.

Transport Secretary Lord Adonis said there was a ‘strong case’ for a lower limit. According to the Daily Mail, the Government believes that lowering the limit would prevent up to 65 deaths and 220 serious injuries a year.

And the limits could be reduced further for motorists who have just passed their test, and those in charge of HGVs. Sir Peter North, who is heading the forthcoming review of drink- and drug-driving laws, is thought to favour a limit of 20mg in such cases. This would means that even a single drink could put them over the legal limit.

But if, as seems ever-more likely, these lower limits become law it is possible that milder penalties will be introduced for drivers found to be just over the limit. At present, anyone caught drink-driving faces a minimum ban of a year and a fine of up to £5000. Magistrates are obliged to impose at least a 12-month ban – there is no room for discretion.

Most countries that already have lower limits impose only fines or give drivers points on their licences. Sir Peter is considering shorter bans for drivers with readings of between 50g and 75g, or the chance to escape disqualification if they attend drink awareness courses.

Road safety groups, meanwhile, welcome the lower limits but oppose any reduction in the length of ban.

It is also likely that stiffer penalties will be introduced for those caught driving under the influence of drugs. One of the problems legislators have faced is the difficulty of quickly assessing the levels of drugs that drivers have taken. However, new ‘drugalyser’ devices could make it easier for patrols to catch them.

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