The blood alcohol limit for driving in the UK has remained unchanged since 1966. The legal limit is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood (35mg of alcohol per 100ml of breath) higher than in most other European countries.
The Scottish government has launched a consultation over proposals to lower the limit in Scotland to 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to bring it in line with much of the Continent.
The North Report, conducted by the North Review Committee indicated that a lower drink limit of 50mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood could result in about 43 lives being saved in Britain each year. Other research has shown more ambitious estimates. The Albalate study of European countries estimates 77 to 168 lives could be saved each year in England and Wales, while Australian research suggests it could be 144 lives saved after the first year, progressively increasing until by the sixth year, up to 303 deaths are avoided.
The North Report also indicated that evidence showed drivers with a blood alcohol concentration level between 50mg and 80mg per 100ml of blood are six times more likely to die than those with zero blood alcohol.
The British Medical Association supports calls for a reduction in the prescribed limits making reference to evidence indicating that the risk of being involved in a road traffic accident is 10 times higher for drivers with a reading of 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood than those with a zero blood alcohol reading; the relative crash risk for drivers with a reading of 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood was double that of drivers with a zero blood alcohol reading.
Many road safety campaigners have welcomed the Scottish government’s proposals; others are concerned that the proposals will create confusion among drivers, particularly with the limits in Scotland potentially differing from those throughout the rest of the UK. However, it is hoped that most operators have a ‘no drinking while driving’ policy in place.
If no such policy is already in place now would be a good time to implement one, however, if such a policy is in place, operators are advised to make sure that drivers are clear on any changes and that this communication is recorded. Hauliers are also recommended to review and refresh their alcohol and drugs policy where necessary to ensure it covers everything required.