Drink-Driving in Perspective
Some may take the view that opposing a reduction in the drink-driving limit is condoning drunken driving. I refute that absolutely. There is a world of difference between driving with a sub-80 mg blood-alcohol concentration (BAC), which poses little or no additional accident risk, and driving with a high BAC, which poses a dramatically increased risk. Reducing the limit would criminalise the former group while doing nothing to deter the latter. Indeed it is worrying the way that anti-alcohol groups, and many well-meaning people who have been taken in by them, have blurred the distinction between driving when drunk, and driving after a couple of drinks. One is dangerous, the other is not, but in their world the two come under the same category of "drink-driving". That is a cunning strategy for deterring responsible people from drinking at all, but works directly against road safety.
The significant reduction in drink-related fatalities since the mid-eighties is often attributed to the authorities adopting a more absolute position and no longer admitting that driving after a couple of drinks poses no danger and is within the law. However, surely the real reason for this is that the police have given a much higher priority to combating drink-driving and have administered many more breath tests.
I do not advocate any increase in the current 80 mg limit, or any amelioration in the normal penalty of a one-year driving ban. Britain has one of the best records in the world in reducing drink-related accidents, better than many countries that nominally have 50 mg limits, and one of the main reasons for this is the existence of a clear, black and white, standard that has general support. Introducing any form of differential penalties, whether or not combined with a lower limit, would cloud the issue and be counter-productive. Although obviously the level of risk increases on a graduated scale, in practice it is necessary to draw the line at a particular point. 80 mg has been in place and accepted since 1967 and I do not seek to change it.
However, I would propose the following changes in the law and the method of enforcement:
The above do not in any way constitute a "drink-drivers' charter", and it is my sincere belief that they would in practice, if combined with appropriate publicity campaigns about the dangers of drunken driving, result in a significant reduction in road deaths.
And, while I don't in any sense seek to encourage anyone to do it who wouldn't otherwise want to, driving after one or two small alcoholic drinks is entirely legal (and would still be so - just - with a 50 mg limit), and there is no scientific evidence that it increases the risk of an accident.