Thursday, 17 June 2010

Driving the problem underground

Some very sensible words here from Nick Bish of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers on the implications of cutting the drink-drive limit:

“The UK already has a robust enforcement regime with severe penalties and has among the lowest drink-drive deaths in Europe.

“Of course we want to make it better but major changes in the blood alcohol limits are not necessarily the way to do this; other countries have lower limits and yet a worse record.

“Social and peer pressure have convinced people that it is absolutely not acceptable to drink and drive. We should play to our strengths and reinforce the policing, the peer pressure and the public messaging.”

“Pubs are the best and safest places to drink. The report does recognise that pubs have successfully long promoted the “Don’t Drink & Drive’ message and implemented dozens of initiatives from Designated Driver to Get-you-home schemes.

“What worries me is that well-meaning regulations sometimes have unintended consequences and drive people away from drinking in a supervised environment where they are served by someone who is sober, towards the home or round at friends where there is no automatic duty of care regarding alcohol consumption.”
He is quite right to point out that cutting the limit is likely to have unintended consequences by moving more drinking out of pubs. The people who are in the habit of regularly driving to pubs and drinking a quantity of alcohol that they believe will put them in the 50-80mg range are overwhelmingly over 45 anyway. With the passage of time they will die off, and many will already have been deterred by the smoking ban, pub closures and the restaurantisation of many rural pubs. The younger generation tend to have much more of an all-or-nothing attitude to drinking and if they visit pubs by car will usually tend to have soft drinks even if they will have fifteen Blue WKDs on Friday night.

Indeed it could be argued that most of the supposed safety benefits of a lower limit have already been achieved anyway, and changing the law would simply have the effect of driving the problem underground. The time when you are most likely to be targeted as a drink-driving suspect is in the thirty seconds after driving off a pub car park, and if people are drinking in private houses and just blending into the general traffic they will be much harder to identify. And, unless the police are miraculously given more resources, every 50-80 offender they process will be another 80+ offender who is not apprehended.

Anyway, it’s reported in the Sun today (no web link) that:
Proposals to lower the drink-drive limit are likely to be thrown out by the coalition government, it emerged yesterday... A Westminster source told The Sun the new limit is “unlikely” to come into force.
Fingers crossed, then. It’s easy to write off the Sun as not being a serious newspaper, but on issues like this they do have a direct line to the government.


  1. “Social and peer pressure have convinced people that it is absolutely not acceptable to drink and drive."

    I agree. When the drinking and driving laws first came in you were considered "unlucky" to of got caught. Now, quite rightly it is a social shame and the only, defence is that "we have all done it." I live in London and have plenty of public transport, so I have no excuses.

    What this law may do is tip the balance the other way, where the social shame disappears and we all end up being "unlucky" again. Also you might as well be hung for the sheep rather than a lamb and the 50-80 group might end up in the 100-150 group.

    The Sun journalists I have met have been highly educated and working for it, genuinely is prestigious. Being Britain's largest selling newspaper and most widely read newspaper, up to 10 million, it is highly influential. The showbiz and celeb "news" is a tribute to someone's fevered imagination (its the main reason it sells so well) the politics is well connected and accurate.

  2. The Sun may be populist tripe, but it is very well done populist tripe. A work colleague buys it to read with his lunch, and then sometimes passes it on to me.

    In the past they have allowed some of their columnists to let rip about a proposed reduction in the drink-drive limit (I recall one by Fergus Shanahan) but on this occasion they haven't yet - maybe this confirms their inside information is sound.

  3. I do not want to sound all "inside track" and a name dropper, but you may or not be aware I am involved in politics on a part time basis.

    I am strongly led to believe that David Cameron is fully briefed on the impact of the smoking ban for example. Cameron's and his cabinet colleague's advisors tend to be highly educated, libertarian, free marketeers and know full well that reducing the drink driving limit will be yet another nail in the coffin for pubs.

    I was presenting the economic effects of the smoking ban to some noted economists and even they were shocked at the scale of closures. They too agreed that probably 66% of pub closures are down to the ban.

    ConservativeHome the Tory Party's shop window to the acivists, the ones who bang on your door, stand for the council and stuff the envelopes, by and large have had enough of the nanny state. I find it remarkable that the middle classes are the ones who bans annoy the most, especially the smoking when only about 15% smoke.

    I think Andrew Lansley the Minister for Health will be very reluctant to introduce any further social restrictions as ConHome would be in open revolt as recent debates on minimum pricing of alcohol and the smoking ban demonstratd. Lansley has now said he will not be introducing minimum pricing for alcohol.

    We can but hope that nanny is taking a well deserved holiday.

    Disclaimer: Member and Conservative Party activist.

  4. I see we both went for a heading on the "driving" theme: I wrote Driving The Limit Down. They say great minds think alike ~ and fools seldom differ!


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