Change in the drink-drive law must be publicised

New laws could see drivers over the limit after just one drink. Picture: TSPL
New laws could see drivers over the limit after just one drink. Picture: TSPL
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CHANGES to the drink-drive rules announced last week mean many motorists could soon find themselves over the limit after just one drink. From 5 December, the limit will be cut from 80mg of alcohol in every 100ml of blood to 50mg.

The changes have already led to calls for softer penalties for those found to be between the old and new limit – possibly a disqualification of six months instead of the current mandatory 12 months. But those falling foul of the new rules are unlikely to receive much sympathy from the police.

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Appearing before the Scottish Parliament’s justice committee yesterday, Chief Superintendent Iain Murray told MSPs that anyone planning on getting behind the wheel in the morning should avoid drinking altogether the night before.

Chief Supt Murray was addressing concerns from members of the committee that many law-abiding drivers would be left confused over the changes, particularly over whether they were safe to drive the morning after the night before. He said 10 per cent of the more than 400 drivers caught during the police’s annual drink-driving crackdown last winter were detected the following morning.

Chief Supt Murray, Police Scotland’s, head of road policing, said members of the public needed to “prioritise” the different parts of their life, adding it was an “indictment of our society” that many people seemed unable to go without drinking in the evening.

The police are, of course, perfectly correct that someone over the limit in the morning is, technically speaking, no better than someone over the limit in the evening. But there is a world of difference between the driver who thinks nothing of getting behind the wheel straight after an all-night drinking session and the driver still marginally over the limit the next day.

There is a case for high-profile public information campaign to educate drivers about the dangers – for most motorists, 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood is just a number.

Dr Peter Rice, chairman of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems, told MSPs yesterday that anyone sharing a bottle of wine with dinner at around 8pm would have a blood alcohol level approaching zero by around 2am. Only those drinking in excess of a bottle of wine, or half a bottle of spirits, or six pints of beer would be likely to be over the limit after eight hours’ sleep.

But only time – not coffee, nor a “full Scottish breakfast” – has any impact on alcohol being metabolised, he said.

As the police and the Scottish Government have been keen to highlight, most of us agree with the idea of tougher rules on drink-driving. But in return we should be give the information we need to know when we shouldn’t get behind the wheel.