The chief medical officer has called for all teenage drivers to be banned if they have any trace of alcohol in their system.
The zero-tolerance approach from Sir Liam Donaldson – the government's principal medical adviser - comes in his 2007 Annual Report, which was published last week.
In the report, Sir Donaldson’s key recommendation is that: “the legal blood alcohol limit for drivers aged between 17 and 20 years should be reduced to zero”.
His justification is that some 1,000 15 to 24-year-olds die each year in accidents, and most of these are in transport accidents.
These death rates have remained steady over the last five years. “Those aged 15–24 years are twice as likely as any other age group to die in a transport accident,” he said.
His recommendation was greeted with a mixed response.
The RAC said the measure was “unworkable” and instead suggested the drink drive limit should be lowered from 80mg to 50mg for everyone regardless of age.
However, many countries already have a zero limit for novice drivers, proving that it is workable and effective – Canada saw a 19% reduction in young driver crashes when Ontario introduced a similar ban in 1995.
“It’s a controversial recommendation, but I believe it will save lives,” said Sir Donaldson.