Stricter drink drive limit in Scotland 'has not reduced accidents', says study

A stricter drink drive limit in Scotland has had "no effect" in reducing accidents, according to a new study.

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New figures show no change across all types of accidents involving alcohol as a result of a stricter limit of 50mg per 100ml, introduced in December 2014.

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Researchers from the Universities of Bath and Essex found that the reforms, supported by a 'heavyweight media campaign', led to stronger anti-drink drive public sentiment, but this was not enough to tackle marginal drink driving.

While media support has helped solidify public opinion against drink driving, the number of accidents has been unaffected, the study says.

In December 2014, Scotland reduced its drink drive limit from 80 to 50mg per 100ml of blood, making Scottish drink drive laws the toughest in the UK.

For England, Wales and Northern Ireland the limit remained at 80mg per 100ml of blood.

But the research team said drink driving has continued for a minority because of a lack of available and cheap transport alternatives, and weak law enforcement.

They also found that Scots neither drove their cars less, nor switched to being driven because of the reform and that taxis and buses had not become cheaper or more available.

More significantly, they found no impact on enforcement for drink-driving related offences and there were no more breath tests carried out following the reform than before it.

Researcher, Dr Jonathan James from the University of Bath's Department of Economics explains: "Our results show that reducing the drink drive limit in Scotland has not led to a decrease in alcohol-related road accidents since 2014.

"These are significant findings which defy some of the expectations for what this reform hoped to achieve.

"Whilst a lower drink drive limit has helped to harden anti-drink drive sentiment among the public, the change in law appears not to have targeted those who cause the majority of alcohol-related road accidents: those who drink heavily and still drive.

"To tackle this, policymakers need to back up a stricter limit with tougher enforcement and rethink alternative transport options."

Professor Marco Francesconi from the University of Essex added: "Our results suggest that the effectiveness of the Scottish reform - and other similar future interventions - has to be accompanied by other public policies, such as sustained hot-spot policing or an entire reappraisal of the local public transport system."

The findings have been published in the Journal of Health Economics.

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