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Last Updated: Friday, 15 June 2007, 12:05 GMT 13:05 UK
Drink-drive limit 'could be cut'
Traffic officer
Police say more and more young people are drink driving
The drink-drive limit could be lowered to the equivalent of half a pint of beer, under government proposals.

Ministers are looking at whether to lower the legal limit from 80mg to 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, in line with European standards.

It would be roughly the equivalent to a half pint of strong beer or one 175ml glass of standard wine - depending on body size and other factors.

The government will hold a consultation on drink-drive laws later this year.

Other proposals include random breath tests - currently only drivers suspected of being over the limit are tested by police.

Save lives

Last month senior police officers warned that more people aged 17 to 24 were drink driving and having accidents.

Britain has one of the highest permissible blood alcohol limit levels in Europe and research by University College London has suggested that reducing it to 50mg would save 65 lives a year.

The 50mg limit was also backed by the Scottish National Party at its conference last year and has been supported by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.

If you go to 50mg before you have effective enforcement at 80mg people will just ignore the 50mg level
Stephen Ladyman

Ministers have previously said they favoured education and tough penalties to dissuade drink drivers.

Transport Minister Stephen Ladyman told a seminar on Thursday that a reduction in the drink drive limit probably would happen, but he first wanted to see evidence police were able to enforce the current level.

He told the Times newspaper: "I think it will happen. The consultation will include lowering the limit.

"It depends on how quickly we get enforcement at 80mg. If you go to 50mg before you have effective enforcement at 80mg people will just ignore the 50mg level."

The Association of Chief Police Officers also said it favoured lowering the limit to 50mg, but added: "Our emphasis at this time is on rigorously enforcing the existing law."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Transport said it has always been the intention that the drink drive limit would be included in the consultation - but it was impossible to say which proposals would go forward.

She added: "The UK already has stringent penalties for drink driving, and better enforcement than many countries, but that doesn't mean we can't do better."

The government proposals were welcomed by Liberal Democrat Transport spokesman Alistair Carmichael.

But he added: "Cutting the drink drive limit is only part of the story, there must be enough properly trained police officers to enforce it."

Mary Willams, of road safety charity Brake, said: "We have put up with lax drink-driving laws for too long while the British government has sat back and watched our European neighbours leading the way.

"Drinking and driving causes carnage on our roads and devastates families and communities but many of the new generation of drivers, in particular, are still not getting the message."

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