UK Government to look again at drink-drive limit

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

File photo of Transport Secretary Lord Adonis.
Image: Flickr contributor Maarten (Superchango).

The U.K. Government announced today it has commissioned a report on whether the legal alcohol limit for driving, and whether the laws on driving under the influence of drugs, should be tightened. The report, by Oxford University academic Sir Peter North, should be completed by April for the Secretary of State for Transport, Lord Adonis. Lord Adonis said, "Drink-driving was involved in 430 road deaths in 2008 and research suggests that drug-driving is also a key concern for the public."

One option that will be considered is whether to lower the limit from 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood to 50 milligrams. This would bring the UK into line with other European countries; a proposal to change the law in Scotland under devolved powers has already been put forward by the Scottish Government. A limit of 50 milligrams would mean that an average person would not be permitted to drive after drinking a standard measure of wine or a pint of beer.

The news was applauded by representatives of motoring organisations. The Automobile Association's President, Edmund King, said he was "pleased that these complex issues will be addressed". The RAC's spokesman said drug-driving is a "growing problem", and lowering the alcohol limit would reduce fatalities. However, the Conservative Party took a different view, with Shadow Transport Secretary, Theresa Villiers, saying they were "yet to be convinced of the case for an across-the-board reduction in the drink-driving limit", and, would certainly oppose any suggestion of penalties being reduced.

Sir Peter North, 73, is a former Principal of Jesus College, Oxford and Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University. A former member of the Law Commission, he chaired the Road Traffic Law Review between 1985 and 1988, leading to the Road Traffic Act of 1991. His 1997 report on parades and marches in Northern Ireland led to the foundation of the Parades Commission. Commenting on his task he stated, "[t]he challenge is to see whether changes in the law and its processes can reduce casualties", adding that whilst the issues "are not easy to resolve", he intended to consult "widely".