There is a war raging in Scotland. On one side are the police and politicians, on the other is Scotland’s deeply entrenched drinking culture. It’s not immediately apparent which side is winning either.
On the 5th December last year, a new drink-drive limit came into force in Scotland. The new limit for drink driving – 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood – brought our country into line with the majority of other European nations. England, Northern Ireland and Wales still retain the older 80mg limit – the joint highest in Europe.
The new limit appeared to be having an effect, with an 19 per cent drop in recorded offences over the festive period – 351 compared to 434 the previous year. All good news so far.
Then came the news that the limit was hurting the pub industry.
People weren’t stopping for a quick one on the way home, they weren’t nipping down for an evening pint and they simply weren’t having anything if they knew they were driving the next day.
Pubs across the country started feeling the pinch. Then they started closing in their droves.
Putting pubs and bars out of business was never the goal of the lowered limit but it’s a sad and unavoidable consequence of it.
All in all, mixed results for the first six months.
Six Months On
Police Scotland – looking to hammer home their drink-drive message – have just launched their summer campaign. Running under the slogan “Don’t spoil Summer”, the crackdown has already seen thousands of drivers stopped and tested at the roadside.
One in every 40 motorists was found over the limit. Over the same period last year, only one in 55 drivers was over the limit.
While many will immediately criticise Police Scotland and label their campaigns as ineffective, it’s worth remembering that the new limit casts the net substantially further than last summer. Nowadays, just one drink can put you over the limit, whereas last year drivers were having two pints and legally driving home.
Justice secretary Michael Matheson weighed in on the campaign, saying:
“When the Summer Drink Drive campaign launched two weeks ago, it had a simple message: don’t risk it.
“With the police stopping thousands of drivers each month, there can be serious consequences for anyone caught drink driving.
“Even with the sun shining over Scotland, it’s never safe to drink and drive.
“Police breath tests show one in 40 stopped drivers is over the legal limit. That kind of reckless behaviour cannot be tolerated in Scotland – it puts everyone involved in danger. The reality is that having even one alcoholic drink before driving makes you three times more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash. It’s definitely not worth that risk.”
We’ll have to wait until next year’s statistics roll in until we can truly understand whether the ongoing offensive by Police Scotland is having an appreciable effect on drink driving behaviour. And when we know for sure, so will you.