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Scotland's Drink Driving Challenge

By raccars Published

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Last December a new, lower drink driving limit was introduced in Scotland. Instead of the 80mg per 100ml still used in England and Wales, drivers in Scotland are now subject to a blood alcohol limit of 50mg per 100ml, the same as most other European countries.

The strict new limit means drivers could potentially pass the legal blood alcohol level after just one drink, but has the move had the desired effect? Have Scottish police forces seen drivers change their behaviour as a result of the new law?

Chief Superintendent Iain Murray, Head of Roads Policing for Police Scotland, believes that Scottish drivers have responded very positively to the change and points towards the numbers. Before the lower blood alcohol limit was introduced, Scottish police forces were reporting 106 drivers failing blood alcohol tests every week, and another 35 or so recorded results between 50-80mg per 100ml.

Between December 2014 and February 2015, the number of drink drivers in Scotland went down to an average of 80 per week, for a reduction of about quarter. Chief Superintendent Murray confirmed that the change could not be accounted for by any change in enforcement. Rather than reducing the number of breath tests carried out, Scottish police are stopping and testing more drivers than ever - about 20,000 per month or one every two minutes. Police Scotland officers are authorised to perform a breathalyser test on any vehicle they stop, for any offence.

The new limit was introduced with a 74% approval rating from the Scottish public, after an average of 200 annual road deaths on Scotland for the last four years. Alcohol was involved in about one in eight of these, while alcohol related accidents caused another 130 injuries on Scottish roads every year.

While no causal link has been confirmed, Chief Superintendent Murray points out that Scotland also reported lower numbers than usual of domestic violence incidents at Christmas, which he believes suggests that people are making better decisions about their drinking behaviour. While it used to be considered safe to drink a pint before taking the wheel, police in Scotland now advise drivers to follow a zero tolerance approach.

The results pose the obvious question of whether England should follow the example set by Scotland and the rest of Europe - except Malta. There is a pattern of reduction in road deaths and serious injuries in countries subject to the lower drink drive limit, whereas in England these statistics have plateaued.

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