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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 April, 2004, 23:44 GMT 00:44 UK
Alcohol limits 'should be lower'
Driver
The government says people should not drink at all if they plan to drive
The alcohol limit for drink driving should be much lower than it currently is, a child health researcher has argued.

In the UK, the limit is set at 80 milligrams (mg) per 100 millilitres (ml) of blood.

But writing in the British Medical Journal, Dr Ediriweera Desapryia, called for the limit to be set at 20mg.

However, the Department of Transport said it had no plans to change the limit.

A spokesman stressed the UK had some of the strictest drink-drive penalties in Europe.

'Deterioration'

Dr Desapryia, who is based at the Department of Paediatrics in the Centre for Community Child Health Research in Vancouver said the legal blood alcohol limit was 80mg per 100ml or above in the US, Canada, South Africa and Sri Lanka - as well as the UK.

But he warned: "This is too high as there is clear evidence that driving skills deteriorate and the risk of becoming involved in a crash increases from a blood alcohol concentration of 20mg per 100 ml."

He said studies had shown that a driver's risk of being involved in a fatal car crash increased significantly if their alcohol limits were at 20mg or above.

Dr Desapryia said there was clear evidence that important driving skills were impaired at very low blood alcohol concentration.

He added: "Because the legal blood alcohol concentration in most countries is so high, people often mistakenly believe that they may drive up to this limit, overlooking the fact that driving is impaired at lower concentrations.

"To set a blood alcohol limit so high may adversely influence people's estimates of their relative risk of injury or death while driving.

"Drinking and driving policies and decisions about enforcement need to be hinged on the scientific evidence."

Last year Liberal Democrat MP Don Foster argued the limit should be cut to 50 mg per ml, in line with many other European countries.

Driving ban

But a spokesman of the Department of Transport told BBC News Online: "The government advice is 'don't drink if you're going to be driving.

"We took the decision two years ago not to lower the limit. In this country, the penalties for drinking and driving are amongst the toughest in Europe.

"In other countries which have lower limits, they are not enforced in the same way."

Drivers found to be over the legal limit in the UK face a minimum one year driving ban, a fine of up to 5,000 and a possible six months in prison


SEE ALSO:
Drink menace of uninsured drivers
31 Mar 04  |  Business
MP wants lower drink driving limit
10 Mar 03  |  England


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