Could Changes To Drink Drive Limit Improve Road Safety?
21st October 2013
With the number of fatal drink-driving motor vehicle accidents increasing by 17% over the last year, our personal injury solicitors are wondering whether it is time to re-evaluate the UK’s drink-drive limits, and whether this could improve road safety.
England and Wales have Europe’s highest drink drive limit (as does Malta), with drivers allowed to get behind the wheel with 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. Researchers at Sheffield University looked into the relationship between drink-drive limits and fatal road accident claims, finding that lowering the limit could save between 77 and 168 lives in England and Wales every year.
This is a sizable proportion of the overall number of deaths – in 2012, 280 people lost their lives in drink drive accidents, while 240 died in 2011. Furthermore, 2012 saw 1,210 serious injuries caused by drink-drivers, while 2011 saw 1,270.
But some argue that even 50mg/100ml is too high, with road safety charity Brake calling for the limit to be reduced to just 20mg, as research shows that a blood alcohol concentration of between 20mg and 50mg per 100ml has been shown to significantly affect driving abilities, as drivers with this blood alcohol level are more than three times more likely to be involved in a crash than sober drivers. The government has proposed ‘zero tolerance’ limits for driving while under the influence of some illegal drugs, and Brake suggests that extending this to alcohol would clearly send the message that even one drink is too many. Currently, the 80mg/100ml limit suggests that it is acceptable to have one or two drinks before getting behind the wheel, the charity argued.
‘Zero tolerance’ at 20mg/100ml might sound peculiar, but there are actually naturally-occurring alcohols in particular foods. As a result, this is the blood alcohol limit for pilots, and represents far less than the blood alcohol level someone would have from one pint of beer.
Proposals to reduce the drink drive limit are not new, and have been floated several times in the past. There are concerns that reducing the limit could cause damage to the rural economy – ministers are worried that people in the countryside will no longer go to a local pub to drink if they cannot drive there and back.
Avoid Drink Drive Road Accident Claims
With around one-sixth of all fatal motor vehicle accidents involving drink drivers, the best way for people to protect themselves when on the road is to avoid alcohol altogether. When people want to go out drinking, they should leave their cars at home and look for alternative forms of transport, such as taxis and public transport. Alternatively, they could designate a member of their party as the ‘designated driver’ and ensure they do not touch a drop of alcohol at all.
Drinkers should also be cautious about their alcohol intake if they will have to drive the next morning – after drinking a lot of alcohol, people will likely be above the drink drive limit for a large proportion of the following day.