Friday 21 June 2024

The drink-driving limit

At some point over the years, the term 'drink-driving' replaced 'drunk-driving'. It is very much illegal for anyone who is even slightly drunk to drive - and rightly so - but as in so many other areas of life, the 'public health' lobby wants to reduce the limit to zero. The BMA this week called for the limit to be nearly halved and I wrote about it for The Critic.

On Tuesday, the British Medical Association (BMA) called on the next government to slash the drink-driving limit from 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg per 100ml. Reducing the limit would bring the UK in line with most of Europe, but it would be lower than most of North America and plenty of other countries. 

It goes without saying that driving drunk is an incredibly stupid and dangerous activity that kills around 260 people a year in Britain. Those who do it should be punished to the full extent of the law. Most countries accept that motorists can drink a small amount of alcohol and still be fit to drive. The only question is how much? In 1967, the UK erred on the side of caution by introducing a limit of 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood which amounts to roughly a pint and a half of beer, although that will vary depending on a person’s gender and weight, and on how quickly you drink it. Few people would argue that a motorist will be incapacitated by drinking such a modest amount of alcohol, but would there be benefits from lowering the limit?

Fortunately, this is a question that can be answered with empirical evidence. In 2014, Scotland lowered the limit to 50mg of alcohol. What happened next has been evaluated in three peer-reviewed studies, one written by public health academics and two written by economists.
Find out what they concluded here.


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