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New drink-drive limits next year?

 

December and January is the traditional time for the re-launching of drink drive campaigns by the police. Next year there is the added prospect of a change in drink drive laws, possibly as early as 2010, bringing a reduction in the maximum permitted alcohol level when driving.

 

The current drink drive limits (80 in blood, 35 in breath) have been in place for some considerable time. There have been moves to lower these levels to bring them in line with that in many EU countries (50 in blood). Now the Government is finally giving further serious consideration to this and indeed part of this was a consultation on road safety which closed in February 2009 - this has been widely publicised in the press recently.

 

The situation appears to be quite a simple choice between (a) keeping permitted levels as they are (b) reducing them to the "European" level i.e. those in many European countries or (c) allowing no alcohol in the body when driving.

 

Those opposing a reduction in the existing permitted levels suggest there is no need for a change because there is no evidence that driving with a new reduced limit would in fact tackle the category of drink-driving that is dangerous and linked to significant casualty numbers. The argument is that if the real risk is in relation to alcohol at higher levels (which the current law addresses) then why should the existing level be changed?

 

If a nil tolerance were to be introduced, then there would of course be some difficulties - would this really mean a zero tolerance in the sense that any alcohol, no matter how small in the body would give rise to an offence (akin to drugs testing on athletes)? It is easy to aspire to a law with a zero-tolerance but how could this be fairly implemented and policed? What about medication or natural alcohol? No doubt a new industry would be created whereby drivers would purchase self testing kits in large numbers generating a whole new industry and there would be significant legal and technical challenges in court cases in this area.

 

The counter argument to a nil tolerance level, others argue, is that this should not be introduced where there is no evidence that small levels of alcohol impair driving or at least impair significantly enough as a contributing factor in accidents to warrant a law change - why should the presence of small or negligible amounts constitute a criminal offence?

 

There is a debate about the introduction a two-tier system i.e. mandatory driving disqualification at the current level (currently minimum mandatory 12 month driving ban) but penalty points or discretionary disqualification below this e.g. between 50 and 80 in blood i.e. between the current 'European' and UK levels. (the existing offence of being 'drunk in charge' attracts 10 penalty points if no driving ban is imposed). This might be a compromise appeasing all factions in this debate to some extent. It would certainly appear to be the case that if the current permitted alcohol levels were lowered it would be politically very difficult to restore them back to higher levels later.

 

We will see what happens - whatever the outcome no faction is likely to be happy with the ultimate outcome of the review.

 

Tim Ridyard, Solicitor

 

Link to this page can be found at: http://www.roadtransport.com/blogs/transport-law-blog/2009/12/new-drink-drive-limits-next-ye.html

 

Barker Gotelee

 

01473-611211

 

tim.ridyard@barkergotelee.co.uk

 

www.roadtransportlawyer.co.uk

Road Transport Law Blog

The information on these pages are taken from www.roadtransport.com

Manufactured the highest specification and complying to all EU Directives, TrukWash cleaning products are designed to remove the most stubborn traffic film and grease from Paintwork, Chassis, Engine and Plant & Machinery and is used by the Car Valeting, Commercial Road, Rail, Sea and Air Transport sectors. We also supply a comprehensive range of Pressure Washers and Cleaning Equipment

 

 

 

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