Page last updated at 13:20 GMT, Wednesday, 26 November 2008

'Zero alcohol' for young drivers

A breath test
Alcohol bans for young drivers apply in much of Europe, the US and Australia

Under-21s should be not be allowed a single drop of alcohol before driving, government advisors will recommend.

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs will call on ministers to set a "zero rate" in England, Scotland and Wales in a report due in February 2009.

A spokesman for the council said it was "concerned about consumption of alcohol by young people when driving within the existing drink driving limits".

The government has said it has a "completely open mind" on the limit.

In the UK the blood alcohol limit currently stands at 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.

On 20 November, Road Safety Minister Jim Fitzpatrick opened a consultation on reducing it.

'Acceptable quantity'

Alcohol bans for young drivers are in place across the continent, while states in Australia and the US have similar rules.

Government transport statistics show that 14 young drivers and their passengers die every week in Britain.

By their nature, they are inexperienced drivers and not able to tolerate alcohol
Caroline Healy

An Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) working group has been undertaking a review of drink-driving legislation.

A spokesman for the group confirmed it was "looking at evidence from other European countries around the acceptable quantity of alcohol that a young person can drink while driving".

According to the Daily Telegraph newspaper, the working group's chairman and ACMD council member Caroline Healy told a public meeting: "We feel that young people under the age of 21 should have a zero rate for alcohol if they are driving.

"By their nature, they are inexperienced drivers and not able to tolerate alcohol, and the combination of the two is dangerous."

In July 2008, England's Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson also called for the legal blood alcohol limit to be cut to zero for drivers aged 17 to 20.

Road safety charity Brake and the British Medical Association have also called for the law to be tightened.

According to the Telegraph, the ACMD's report will also call for calories to be placed on alcohol labels, a ban on selling strong lagers and beers and for drinks to be taxed on the basis of their strength.

In May 2008, the government reclassified cannabis as a class B drug despite an ACMD review - commissioned by Prime Minister Gordon Brown - recommending that it should stay class C.

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