Page last updated at 13:48 GMT, Monday, 6 October 2008 14:48 UK

Lower drink-drive limit rejected

Police officer holds a breathalyser
Police could be given new powers to stop and test drivers at random

The government has decided against reducing the legal limit for alcohol in a driver's blood despite suggestions it could save 65 lives a year.

It had previously planned to cut the limit from 80 to 50 milligrams (mg) of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.

But Road Safety Minister Jim Fitzpatrick said his focus would now be on better enforcing the existing limit.

Malta and Ireland are the only other European countries with the same high limit as Britain.

Cutting the limit to 50mg - equivalent to about half a pint of beer - would put drivers at risk of prosecution after just one drink, and bring them in line with Europe.

'Extremely disappointed'

Last year the then Road Safety Minister Stephen Ladyman said the government would include the proposal in a consultation document.

But his successor Jim Fitpatrick has now said the document, to be published this month, will not recommend the reduction.

He told the Times newspaper: "We are not convinced that dropping to 50 is the right answer. Drivers who are between 50 and 80mg are not the ones we're most worried about. It's the ones above 100."

Brake is astounded the government is ignoring evidence and rejecting a measure that has the support of the public
Cathy Keeler

A study by University College London indicated lowering the limit to 50mg would prevent 65 deaths and 230 injuries a year.

The move was to be supported by the British Medical Association (BMA), the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

The BMA's Head of Science and Ethics, Dr Vivienne Nathanson, told BBC News she would be extremely disappointed if the government did not recommend a reduction to 50mg.

"The BMA believes a reduction in the drink-drive limit will prevent deaths and reduce the number of lives ruined by drinking drivers," she said.

"There is clear evidence of the link between rising blood alcohol concentrations and dangerous driving behaviour.

"The introduction of the current limit... led to a dramatic fall in the number of deaths on the road, but the position has been stagnant since 1993.

"We need a new impetus to reduce the toll of injury and death."

460 killed - down 18% from 2006
1,760 seriously injured - down 11% from 2006
9,620 total accidents - up 2% from 2006
14,480 total casualties - up 1% from 2006
Source: Department for Transport

The Department for Transport said it was considering a range of options to further cut the toll of road deaths, including making it easier for police to enforce the existing drink-driving limit.

Police could be given new powers to stop and test drivers at random rather than needing to suspect an offence is being committed.

Road safety charity Brake told BBC News it was astounded the government was ignoring evidence and rejecting a measure that had the support of the public and its own advisors.

Deputy chief executive Cathy Keeler said: "Although better enforcement is needed and Brake is pleased the government is consulting on improving police enforcement, cutting the drink-drive limit would save lives."

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26 Sep 08 |  Lincolnshire

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