Government policies to reduce drink driving will lack credibility if they fail to cut the legal limit in England and Wales, a key transport safety body has said.
The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) said the UK’s system to prevent drink driving is no longer adequate and called for a comprehensive review.
In a major new report, PACTS said the problem is ‘more complex and needs a broader approach, combining improved enforcement, health measures and alternative transport provision’.
It pointed out that drink driving is one of the biggest causes of road deaths (13%) with 240 people killed each year over the last decade in crashes where a driver was over the limit.
However, levels of police enforcement have decreased by 63% since 2009 ‘and there are indications that drivers believe they are less likely to be caught,’ PACTs said.
Executive director David Davies said: ‘Drink driving is often cited as a road safety success story, yet it remains a major killer and progress has ground to a halt since 2010. Not only is better enforcement important but also the problems of mental health and alcohol dependency need to be recognised.’
With the report recommending that the legal limit should be reduced in England and Wales, Mr Davies added: ‘Scotland introduced a reduced drink drive limit in 2014, in line with most other countries in Europe. It has been accepted by the public; it has not significantly impacted pubs and restaurants or overloaded the police or the courts. Northern Ireland plans to go further, with a zero limit for novice and professional drivers.
‘A lower limit is not a magic bullet but government policies to reduce drink driving will lack credibility as long as they avoid this change.’
The RAC said its research shows the majority of drivers would be in favour of a lower limit.
Road safety spokesman Simon Williams said: ‘This report really moves the debate on when it comes to drink-driving in the UK. The plain fact is that there has been virtually no progress in reducing drink-driving deaths for nearly a decade, so something different clearly needs to be done.
‘Arguably, given that England and Wales now have the dubious distinction of having the most lenient drink-drive limit in Europe, there is also a good case for the Government to examine the merits of bringing it down.’
The PACTS report recommends:
- mandatory breath testing powers for the police and the reduction in enforcement levels to be reversed
- increased penalties for drivers who combine drink and drugs
- specialist rehabilitation courses for those with mental health and alcohol problems
- a lower breath test limit for England and Wales
- reforming the High Risk Offender Scheme
- that the Government pays more attention to drink driving in alcohol harm and night-time economy policies