Although it was widely signalled in advance, it is still good news for pubs and pubgoers that the government has decided not to reduce the British drink-driving limit from 80mg to 50mg, as recommended last year by Sir Peter North’s review. Their response contains a detailed examination of the potential effect on the licensed trade – something that North signally failed to carry out – and says “It is possible, on some assumptions that limited safety benefits might be at a high economic cost.”
It also points out that the overwhelming majority of drink-related casualties involve drivers who are well over the current limit, and it is difficult to forecast accurately what effect, if any, reducing the limit would have on those in this category. The document says:
Of the total reported road accident fatalities in Great Britain in 2008, where a BAC was recorded, 78% of fatalities were below 80 mg/100ml (the legal alcohol limit). Within the total, 76% of fatalities had a BAC below 51mg/100ml; while 2% were between 51 and 80 mg/100ml. Over a fifth of fatalities (22%) were over the prescribed limit and 21% were over 100mg /100ml.- which suggests that disproportionate accident involvement only really begins at levels above 100mg, and certainly not below 80mg. Let us hope now that the issue will be laid to rest at least for the length of the current Parliament.
As I have argued before, substantial sections of the driving population are now disinclined to drink any alcohol immediately before driving (although they may have fewer compunctions about “the morning after”) and so it could be said that many of the claimed safety benefits of a lower limit have already been gained anyway.