Opinion Former Article

Road safety groups condemn Transport Secretary for endorsing drink driving

Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, is under fire for suggesting that it is ok to have 'a glass of wine at the pub' before driving, despite a Government commissioned review finding that drinking within the current limit makes drivers 13 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash.(1)

A group of 20 Conservative MPs have stated that they are prepared to revolt on this issue and have called for a lower limit. There is universal support for a lower limit from road safety groups such as Brake, the RAC, the RAC foundation, the AA, the Institute of Advanced Motoring, and all three emergency services (see notes to editors).

·         The latest British Social Attitudes Survey showed more than three-quarters (77%) of the public are in favour of lowering the drink driving limit.(2)
·         Scotland lowered its limit to 50mg in December 2014, and police figures showed a 12.5% decrease in drink-drive offences in the first nine months.(3)Northern Ireland is set to lower its drink driving limit before the end of 2016.
·         The vast majority of other European countries have a 50mg limit, as well as Commonwealth countries such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The only other European country to have an 80mg limit is Malta, but they recently announced plans to lower the drink-drive limit to 50mg.(4)
·         There has been no progress in reducing drink driving fatalities since 2010, with 240 deaths and more than 8,000 casualties reported each year.
·         Research shows that lowering our drink-drive limit to 50mg alcohol/100ml blood would reduce drink driving deaths by at least 10%.(5)

Gary Rae, campaigns director for Brake, the road safety charity, said:

“It is worrying that the man in overall charge of road safety appears to suggest that it’s ok to drink and drive. His remarks would be unacceptable at any time, but coming just before the Christmas festivities, makes them all the more irresponsible. It’s the wrong message, at the wrong time. Those who drink and drive up to our current limit are 13 times more likely to have a fatal crash than someone who is sober. 77% of the public want a lower limit as do the road safety community; Chris Grayling is clearly out of touch on this issue, and should choose his words far more carefully.”

Vera Baird QC, chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, said:

“Drink driving is still a big problem, which damages a lot of lives. It causes danger to us all on the roads that simply ought not to be there.  Chris Grayling should think a bit more before he speaks. A glass of wine depending on its size, what the person has eaten and their alcohol capacity, can put someone right on the edge of the limit which every sensible country regards as dangerous. It is not ok to take the risk of being far less safe on the road. It is absolutely best not to drink at all if you are driving.  Our current breathalyser limit is 60 years old and is very lenient by international standards. Police see people who are beneath this level when tested but clearly should not be on the road. We need the limit reduced and the government to take this issue of public safety seriously.”

Notes to editors:

In England and Wales, the drink-drive limit is set at 80mg alcohol/100ml blood and has been since 1965. Drivers who drink up to this limit are 13 times more likely to be killed in an accident than drivers who have not consumed alcohol.

Drink driving costs £800 million each year and the majority (60%) of those killed or injured are people other than the driver, such as passengers, pedestrians and cyclists.(5)

On 6th December the All Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Harm launched a report on the impact of alcohol on the emergency service, with reducing the drink driving limit as a key recommendation. See here for more details.

More information on drink driving, with fully referenced statistics and information on drink driving accidents across England and Wales broken down by region, can be found here: www.ias.org.uk/lowerlimit

(1)  Public Health England (Dec 2016) The Public Health Burden of Alcohol and the Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness of Alcohol Control Policies. An evidence review
(2)  2015 British Social Attitudes Survey (Sep 2016), ‘Attitudes to Alcohol: Findings from the 2015 British Social Attitudes Survey’
(3)  BBC News (29 May 2015) Drink-drive offences fall after lower limit introduced
(4)  Malta National Government (Oct 2016) Alcohol Policy Document
(5)  Allsop R, (2015)., ‘Saving Lives by Lowering the Legal Drink-Drive Limit’. PACTS

About Brake
Brake is a national road safety charity, founded in 1995, that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies. We do this through national campaigns, community education, services for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.

Follow Brake on Twitter, Facebook, or The Brake Blog.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

Organisations lending their support to the animation calling for a lower drink-drive limit include:

More Articles by Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) ...

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