43% of drivers back zero drink drive limit

An estimated 65 UK deaths a year were caused by drivers who had  drank but were below the limit. Picture: Colin Hattersley

An estimated 65 UK deaths a year were caused by drivers who had drank but were below the limit. Picture: Colin Hattersley

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NEARLY half of UK motorists back a “zero tolerance” drink drive limit, according to a poll published today by road safety charity Brake.

The 43 per cent support for a 20mg alcohol limit in 100ml of blood is almost twice that found in a survey by the RAC two weeks ago.

A further 31 per cent said the rest of the UK should follow Scotland’s lead in cutting the limit from 80mg to 50mg.

Since the change two weeks ago, more than one in ten drivers caught drink driving north of the Border was found to be between the two limits.

The Brake survey, of 1,000 drivers, was conducted with insurer Direct Line, and showed the remaining 26 per cent believed the UK limit should remain unchanged.

The campaign group, which supports a 20mg limit – already in force in Sweden – said alcohol levels higher than that made it at least three times more likely for a driver to be killed in a crash.

It said an estimated 65 UK deaths a year were caused by drivers who had drank but were below the limit.

Brake said a 20mg limit “would send an unambiguous ‘none for the road’ message, in line with evidence that even small amounts of alcohol increase crash risk”.

The survey also showed near unanimous support for tougher penalties for repeat offenders – one in eight drink drivers.

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Nine in ten thought such drivers should have “alcohol interlocks” fitted to their vehicles when they were allowed back on the road, preventing them from starting the engine if they failed a breath test.

Brake deputy chief executive Julie Townsend said: “It is often said the UK has some of the safest roads in the world but there is no room for complacency, not least on drink driving, which remains one of the biggest killers.

“The UK has now slipped off the top of the European road safety rankings, and without critical progress, including the introduction of a zero-tolerance drink-drive limit, we will be left further behind.

“The drink drive limit in England and Wales sends a confusing message and asks drivers to do the impossible – guess when they are under the limit, and when they are safe to drive.

“Even very small amounts of alcohol impair driving, so the only safe choice is not to drink at all before driving. The law needs to make that crystal clear.”

RAC spokesman Pete Williams said: “Having two different drink drive limits within the UK is a recipe for confusion.

“Our research found demand for a harmonised limit with more than a third [of motorists] surveyed supportive of the new Scottish limit being rolled out across the UK.

“In fact, 23 per cent of UK drivers would prefer to go a step further and have a total ban on consuming any alcohol before driving. There is a very clear underlying feeling among motorists that the current limit outside Scotland is too high and that the rest of the UK should be following Scotland’s lead.”

AA president Edmund King said: “Whilst a majority of AA members support a lower limit, it would probably be more effective for the police to target drivers who are way over the limit as they are involved in the most deaths and injuries on the road.”

Police Scotland said eight of the 71 motorists caught over the limit in the first week of the festive drink-drive campaign had readings of between 50 and 80mg of alcohol.

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