After months and months of ‘Will they, won’t they?’ the speculation is over and the Government has told us it will not lowering the drink-drive limit (currently 80mg/100ml blood). Nor will it be introducing random breath testing, in spite of the recommendations of the recent North Report and the growing body of evidence from around the world.
This further isolates the UK, when compared with the rest of Europe. Indeed, many countries have come to the conclusion that even a limit of 50mg is too high and that the only appropriate limit is 20mg – that’s just one quarter of what we will continue to deem acceptable on our own roads.
Statistics from 2009 show that there were seven deaths and 28 serious injuries every week on Britain’s roads, caused by drink-drivers who were over the limit. Alcohol remains one of the ‘big three’ killers worldwide, causing around one in six of all road deaths. Estimates show that around 65 deaths in Britain each year are caused by drivers who have a blood alcohol content of between 50 and 80.
So, just how far out of step are we in the alcohol limits we permit our drivers? We have conducted some research into drink-drive limits and penalties across Europe:
In Cyprus, the limit is 50. Anyone caught over this limit faces a fine of up to 2,562 euros and a prison sentence of up to two years.
In the Czech Republic, there is zero tolerance of alcohol for drivers. There are hefty on-the-spot fines for offenders, as well as criminal proceedings.
In Estonia, the limit is 20. Any driver caught with alcohol in his/her system will have his/her driving licence withdrawn immediately.
In Hungary, there is a zero alcohol limit. Police have the power to withdraw a driving licence on the spot. Drivers detected with an alcohol level of 80 (which, in the UK, is not an offence) face a term of imprisonment and loss of licence for up to 10 years.
In Norway, the limit is 20. A driver detected at 80 (legal in the UK) will pay a fine of at least 10,000 kroner (£1,200), lose his/her licence for 18 to 20 months and can expect to be sent to prison for up to three weeks.
In Spain, the general alcohol limit is 25, although it is lower for novice drivers and professional drivers. Anyone detected at 60 is deemed to have committed a crime. Sentences include terms of imprisonment and withdrawal of driving licence.