Only one month after the new drink-drive limit came into force and there is already talks of further reductions. New proposals have been made suggesting the introduction of an additional lower limit for drivers of heavy vehicles and public transport.
On 5th December last year, the drink-drive limit was lowered from 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood to 50 milligrams. The reduction brought Scotland into line with the majority of European countries.
Police Scotland reported the number of instances of drink-driving in Scotland had fallen 27% year-on-year. Some have attributed the fall to a strong festive drink-drive campaign an the new limit. Buoyed by the success, some are convinced that the limit should be lowered further.
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In England and Wales the drink-drive limit remains unchanged at 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres.
A new limit
The new proposals, introduced by MSP Christian Allard, suggest the introduction of a new lower drink-drive limit for drivers of large goods vehicles or public transport. The proposals will be carefully studied by ministers over the coming weeks.
“Large vehicles can cause catastrophic damage if they are involved in a collision, so we rightly require a greater standard of training from the people who drive them,” says Allard. “An LGV or a bus is the last thing that someone with any trace of alcohol in their system should be driving, so we should apply the same principle and lower the limit for people driving such vehicles even further.
“There should already be no excuse for someone driving a large vehicle with any trace of alcohol in their system and that should be reflected in the law.
“I will be writing to the Scottish Government to ask them to study this proposal and I hope that it is one we will see action on.”
A precarious knife-edge
Under the new limit drinking a single pint of beer, measure of whisky or large glass of wine could put drivers over the 50mg limit. Reducing the limit to 30mg edges into territory where those who have unwittingly consumed alcohol could be prosecuted.
Don’t Risk It, the drink-driving information portal produced by Road Safety Scotland and Safer Scotland, says the following:
“We want to avoid criminalising drivers who may have the remnants of alcohol in their system even though it is quite some time since they had a drink and very little alcohol actually remains in their system.
“There is also a risk because there will be cases where an individual would register slightly above zero even when they had not been drinking; diabetes and the use of mouthwash can both cause an above-zero level.”
Considering that some medicines, toiletries and foods contain alcohol, the new limit could catch out those we would ordinarily have said have done no wrong. Would Mr Allard be content with the prosecution of a bus driver who had too much trifle before working a night shift? What about someone who unwittingly swallows mouthwash thinking nothing of it?
When the penalties are as serious as they are – imprisonment, thousands of pounds in fines, a 20-year criminal record – we must take time to pause and analyse such proposals in great detail.