Scotland to lead the way on drink driving

Guest post from Dallas McMillan’s personal injury lawyers in Glasgow ( . Connect with injury lawyer David McElroy on Google+ here and on LinkedIn here.

The Scottish Government should press ahead with its plans to lower the legal drink drive limit in Scotland, according to the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL). The group was responding to the Government’s recent consultation on the issue.

The consultation, which has now closed, sought views on reducing the existing blood/alcohol limit of 80mg/100ml to 50 mg/100ml and consequential equivalent reductions in the breath and urine limit.

“If the Scottish Government makes this move it would doubtless save lives and we urge the rest of the UK to follow suit,” said Gordon Dalyell, Scotland representative of APIL.

Impairment to driving

“Significant impairment to driving begins after the 50mg limit is reached and many factors affect the response a person has to alcohol, including gender, weight, and the time of day,” he explained. “Dropping the allowance limit would reinforce the message that having even one drink before getting behind the wheel could have serious consequences.”

Casualty figures

Speaking in a recent debate on the proposals, Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill quoted figures from the Reported Road Casualties Scotland 2011 report, which reveal the impact of drink driving:

  • 750 casualties were estimated to be due to drink-drive accidents in Scotland in 2010;
  • Around 20 deaths were estimated to be due to drink-drive road traffic accidents in Scotland in 2010, similar proportionately to Great Britain as a whole. This was a fall on 2009 but the average for the last five years remains at 30 deaths;
  • Casualties resulting from drink drive accidents have fallen by 35% since 2000 – from some 1,150 in 2000 to 750 in 2010, but are still too high;
  • In 2011, 3.4% of drivers involved in injury from accidents who were asked for a breath test registered a positive reading or refused to take the test.

Zero tolerance

The proposals don’t go far enough for road safety charity Brake, which has called for a zero tolerance limit of 20mg alcohol per 100ml of breath, to send a clear message to drivers that it should be none for the road.

According to Brake, the evidence is clear that even very small amounts of alcohol, under 50mg, substantially increase crash risk. Surveys also show that the public are confused about what is safe and legal in relation to drink driving, with many believing that one or two drinks is safe. Brake believes a zero tolerance limit would help to eliminate confusion.

Changing mindsets

APIL doesn’t support the idea of an outright ban on consuming alcohol when driving, claiming it would be difficult to enforce and could lead to unfairness as many products, such as mouthwash, contain traces of alcohol.

However, APIL strongly believes that action needs to be taken to change the mindset of some motorists with regards to drink driving.

According to Gordon Dalyell, the view that ‘just one or two’ drinks will be okay is too far instilled in the minds of some motorists.

“The UK’s Governments need to take a firm stance if attitudes are to change in the long run,” he added.

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