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The North Report on Drink/Drug Driving

June 28, 2010

The North Review on drink and drug driving is in and has provided the coalition with 51 reasonable recommendations – 28 regarding drink driving and 23 regarding drug driving (pages 15-20 of the report).

Perhaps the biggest change that North recommends is the reduction in alcohol levels allowed before driving, from 80mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood to 50mg.  This would contribute to a reduction to the current situation of 430 deaths and 1600 serious injuries caused annually by drink drivers.  The estimate of 43-168 lives that would be saved annually have been garnered from experiences in other countries such as Switzerland.  North did not estimate the reduction in numbers for serious injuries.

The review found that:

Drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of between 20 mg/100 ml and 50 mg/100 ml have at least a three times greater risk of dying in a vehicle crash than those drivers who have no alcohol in their blood. This risk increases to at least six times with a BAC between 50 mg/100 ml and 80 mg/100 ml, and to 11 times with a BAC between 80 mg/100 ml and 100 mg/100 ml.

Despite this threefold increased risk of death, a limit of 20mg (the lowest level to allow for alcohol in mouthwash or medicine) is not recommended, disappointing many including Brake whose research shows that drivers would like a clear unambigious message on drink driving instead of individuals guessing how much alcohol is allowed.  I agree with Brake when they state ‘No one needs to drive after drinking or taking impairing drugs’ therefore there is no need for a 50mg level, a 20mg level is far more appropriate.

Transport Minister, Phillip Hammond has said he will consider this report, but the Conservatives have not supported a reduction to 50mg in the past, their coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats have.

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