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Scotland: Could drink drive law change cause confusion?

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Martin Wedge, managing director, OVL, argues that drink drive laws are now confusing.

It is exactly 50 years since the first Christmas drink drive campaigns hit our TV screens.

Now, in a bid to avoid drivers hitting their own windscreens, motorists preparing for the party season will have another headache to think about – and that is before they even have a drink!  

From 5th December, Scottish police have been able to breathalyse motorists on the new lower limits for drink driving north of the border, where the legal maximum is now 50mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood, as opposed to the 80mg, which remains the law in England and Wales.

Despite the timing, we cannot blame the Holyrood for this change, as it wanted to make these changes two years ago. Instead, we should look harder at Westminster because the reduction brings Scotland into line with Northern Ireland and most of Europe, while the limit in England and Wales remains at 80mg. It also that means drivers in Scotland could be breaking the law if they have consumed a small glass of wine or single pint of beer.

All well and good to see limits heading south – except south of Hadrian’s Wall, of course, but what about the seasoned fleet drivers – those with national accounts north and south of the border who may fancy a tipple with the tinsel this Christmas?

Well my advice to you is to have a dry Christmas until you are safely at home, or let the train take the strain in order to avoid the car if you are planning to party.

Anybody with any sense on these issues would either introduce a blanket drink drive ban or make sure that there is joined up thinking on joined up journeys – namely all parts of the UK have the same lower limit. Now we have a ridiculous blurred mismatch of limits, drivers who make frequent journeys into Scotland or vice-versa no longer know where they are when it comes to having a wee dram. Indeed, that wee-dram would probably put them over the limit in Scotland, whereas, ironically, it may be fine in England, as the law stands.

It may be that Scotland, long stereotyped as a nation of people who like a drink, is trying to ‘nudge’ its drivers legislatively as one in 10 deaths on the roads north of the border was drink-related.

Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill said it wanted to introduce the lower limit two years ago, but Westminster procrastination delayed the decision until now. He also said that there was an appetite for change south of the border as well.

This is no simply ‘bah humbug’ from Holyrood, but, like the powers for the regions, this issue has to be sorted out as roads don’t stop at the borders and are no respecters of geographical or legal boundaries

Otherwise, when a driver is breathalysed and gives an excuse that he had no idea where he was, it may not be the drink talking.

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  • Bob the Engineer - 16/12/2014 07:41

    For the figure of one in 10 deaths on the roads north of the border was drink-related to be declared presumably these drivers were over the 80 limit as it stood. Therefore the reduction to 50 is pointless as those people were over both already. The only statistic of interest is how many people were between 50 and 80 and can be proven that alcohol was still a factor. I suspect this number would be tiny making the change nothing more than political bluster that won't save anyone. the real issue has to be enforcement not the level, but that takes money and resources. In other words real political commitment.

  • Snozz Haert - 18/12/2014 03:35

    Errr, sorry but it is not difficult. In scotland and the uk, the police do NOT measure blood alcohol at the rosdside, how could they ??? They measure breath alcohol using a BREATalyser not a BLOODalyser. The amount of crap being spouted drives me mad. 1 pint of beer will put you over the limit the morning after, worthy of front page, NEWS of the WORLD . In tScotland the limit is 22 and in the rest of UK it id 35.

  • a vulnerable road user - 21/12/2014 12:12

    Trivially straightforward non problems. Any amount of alcohol should be illegal in drivers, enforced by compulsory ignition-interlock devices.

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