Slashing drink-drive limit 'is a life-saver'
A CUT in the drink-drive limit could be a "life-saving" measure, Kenny MacAskill, the justice secretary, told the Scottish Parliament yesterday.
Ministers want a reduction from the current 80mg limit per 100 millilitres of blood to just 50mg.
Although MSPs debated the limit fiercely yesterday, the Scottish Government has no power in this area, as drink-drive laws are currently a reserved issue.
But campaigners hope Scotland's voice will have some impact when the legislation is considered by Westminster.
Mr MacAskill said: "Around one in nine road deaths in Scotland continues to be caused by drink-drivers.
"Behind that stark and simple statistic are families and communities devastated by the deaths of loved ones."
Last year's festive campaign to tackle drink- and drug-driving at Christmas netted 839 drivers who were arrested for these offences, Mr MacAskill added.
"And that's only the ones who were caught," he said.
The current drink-drive limit has been in place for 40 years, he said, and is now "outdated and unfit for purpose".
Research for the Scottish Government, published this year, recommends a reduction in the drink-driving limit to a less ambiguous level.
Mr MacAskill said he wrote to the Department of Transport earlier this year, setting out the Scottish Government's support for a reduction in the drink-driving limit, as well as random breath-testing.
The minister added: "These are life-saving measures."
More recent research from University College London suggested that as many as 65 deaths a year in the UK could be prevented by such a reduction.
The Conservatives' justice spokesman, Bill Aitken, said fewer people were getting behind the wheel after drinking than 30 years ago. But an "irresponsible minority" drove after drinking, and he called for "vigorous" action against them.
The Liberal Democrats' health spokesman, Ross Finnie, said his party backed reducing the drink-driving limit. He told MSPs that, while there had been a reduction in drink-driving incidents, the number of deaths was the same as a decade ago.
Mr Finnie said: "The actual average of 50 deaths per year on Scotland's roads is the same as ten years ago. And I don't think we can be entirely satisfied with that level of fatalities."
Labour's Richard Baker agreed that it would be better to lower the drink-drive limit. But he pointed out that the issue was reserved to Westminster and it was "sensible" to have consistency across the UK.
A reduction in the alcohol limit is backed by the British Medical Association.
Dr Sally Winning said: "Doctors see and treat the tragic consequences of avoidable road accidents caused by drink-driving and therefore believe that there is really no excuse for keeping the level at 80mg."
80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood – the current drink-drive limit in the United Kingdom.
50 mg per 100 millilitres, what campaigners would like the new limit to be.
23 European Union countries have a limit of 50mg or lower.
20mg, the limit in countries including Poland and Sweden.
4 countries with an 80mg limit – the United Kingdom, Ireland, Luxembourg and Malta.
660 drink-driving related accidents on Scotland's roads in 2005.
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