SCOTLAND’S new lower drink drive limits caught out at least five people within hours of the new laws coming in, it was revealed yesterday.
Police Scotland, who claim not to have increased patrols for the change, said the majority came in the first few hours after midnight when the lower levels took effect. Another followed sometime after 6am.
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The statistics came ahead of the first Friday night in the Christmas party season.
Police Scotland refused to give details of whether any of the motorists were caught between the old and new limits, but say they will compile information on figures over the next few days.
A spokesman said: “The five arrests were across Scotland. Four were between midnight and 6am and the other arrest was later in the morning.”
A public information campaign has been ongoing to ensure drivers were aware of the new standards which bring Scotland into line with much of Europe, while the rest of the UK remains at the previous level. The campaign extended to the Border, amid concerns drivers travelling to Scotland could be caught unawares.
Police Scotland insisted it would be policing the roads as before.
A spokesman added: “It is business as usual for Police Scotland today. People will be breathalysed by officers carrying out routine policing duties as necessary. On average, 100 motorists a week are caught drink driving in Scotland.”
The limit has been cut from 80mg to 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, or 35mg to 22mg of alcohol per 100ml of breath.
The Crown Office, which is in charge of prosecutions, confirmed that previous guidance not to prosecute those just above the limit had been scrapped.
It is understood that drivers were routinely let off if they had an alcohol/breath reading of up to 40mg. The 30-year-old practice was understood to have been accepted partly because of doubts over the accuracy of breathalysers at the time.
Crown Office chief executive Catherine Dyer, in a letter to the Law Society of Scotland, said it would “no longer be bound” by the terms of a 1983 letter which said there would be no proceedings against drivers with a reading of less than 40mg.
She said: “Where there is sufficient and reliable evidence and where it is in the public interest to do so, the Crown will prosecute drink-drive cases.”
In Glasgow, police officers carried out an operation stopping drivers in the Gorbals yesterday morning as part of their annual festive drink-drive campaign.
Justice secretary Michael Matheson, who was there, said: “The principal purpose behind this change is to make the roads in Scotland safer. One in ten of all the fatalities that occur on our roads each year are associated with someone who is over the drink-drive limit – that’s 20 lives that are lost.
“Scotland is leading the way across the UK. The new limit has backing from experts, road safety campaigners and the majority of the public north and south of the Border. All the evidence from the Republic of Ireland shows reducing the limit means less convictions and lower blood alcohol counts.”
The Scottish Government has said drivers are “considerably” impaired at the lower limit, but debate has raged as to whether it will deter the worst drink-drivers.
A RAC survey showed eight in ten Scottish drivers backed the reduced limit, along with more than a third of motorists elsewhere in the UK. The study found almost a quarter would prefer to have a total ban on alcohol before driving.
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