Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Buy that man a pint!

Good news today - for once - that Transport Secretary Philip Hammond is apparently “minded” to reject the call in the North Review to reduce the UK drink-driving limit to 50mg.

A source close to Mr Hammond said: “The minister is very sceptical indeed about this idea. The majority of people who cause fatal car accidents are so far over the limit that lowering it won't make any difference.”
I have to say when he initially expressed scepticism about it a couple of months ago I had my fingers crossed – but we will have to wait until the formal policy announcement before it can be regarded as absolutely certain.

This will give a lifeline to thousands of pubs outside major town centres whose licensees must have been very fearful for their survival had the proposal been implemented. But the ever-growing reluctance of responsible younger people to drive after consuming any alcohol whatsoever is likely to lead to a continued leaching of trade away from pubs in the coming years. This is despite the fact that the legal limit hasn’t changed and in fact is probably enforced less intensively now than it was in the heyday of pubs in the late Seventies.

The report quotes Carole Whittingham, of the Campaign against Drinking and Driving, whose son was killed by a drink-driver, as saying: “We are extremely disappointed. Studies have shown that reducing the limit would reduce deaths on the roads.” But it would be interesting to know the blood-alcohol level of the driver who killed her son. I would be surprised if it hadn’t been well above the current limit, and thus already thoroughly illegal. This argument is very much like advocating the reduction of a reasonable 40 mph speed limit to 30 mph because boy-racers who couldn’t care for any limit are bombing through at 80.


  1. The general thrust of debate tends to talk about harmonisation with Europe, too. Of course, that would only work if they were willing to harmonise penalties along the same lines as other EU countries.

    Our limit may be more lenient, but the penalties are much harsher, hence our better record on drink-related accidents.

    We've got the balance right, Europe has it wrong. If it ain't broke etc.

  2. I have the deepest sympathy for Carole Whittingham, but as I’ve said before, I feel her campaign is misguided.

    The facts are that her son was killed by an 18 year old joyrider who was well known to police as a repeat offender. As was his 13 years old accomplice. The driver was actually just over the legal limit, but the cause of the accident (some might say murder) was clear: he drove at 80-90mph in a 30mph zone AND on the wrong side of the road.

    I would submit that alcohol had very little role to play in his actions and most certainly a zero ban would not have made any difference to him.

    Mrs Whittingham's campaign was actually sparked by the lenient sentence. The offender served only 13 months. As all too often, the legal system is at fault here and I honestly think her time would have been better spent trying to redress that side of the equation.

  3. The Publican reports that the government have denied they are going to scrap the North Review plans.

    But I still think they will.

  4. @Tyson

    Hear, hear too.

    I think one of the major reasons for relatively low deaths from D&D apart harsh penalties is that the vast majority agree that it is wrong.

    I remember when the law first came out if you were convicted it was considered "bad luck." I think now most of us, except being a couple of degrees over, would react on the basis of "serves you right."

    Society has in a sense sorted its own problems out.


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