Last month, MPs proposed reforms for novice drivers, one of which was that new drivers should be subject to a zero alcohol limit for the first 12 months of their driving career.
At present, the drink drive limit in the UK is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, however by 2010, the European Commission in Brussels recommends that member states should operate a limit no higher than 20mg, as Norway, Poland and Sweden already do*. Research by University College London** suggests that even a reduction from 80mg to 50mg per 100ml of blood would reduce road deaths by 65 people a year, which has clear implications for what further reductions could be achieved.
However, why is it that just novice drivers should be subject to a zero tolerance alcohol limit?
In New South Wales, Australia, where a zero tolerance limit exists for all learner and provisional license holders, officials say inexperienced drivers are “more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol…due to their newly developing skills.”***
However, Estonia, Romania, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Hungary operate a zero tolerance policy for all drivers*, believing driving experience cannot compensate for the slowed reaction rates that alcohol induce.
The burning question though, is can zero alcohol be enforced?
In the case of Poland, despite them setting an almost zero tolerance limit – in 2005 14% of road accidents involved drink driving and among young male drivers, the number of those drinking and driving is on the increase****. This suggests that unless there is stringent enforcement, even a legal limit won’t deter some drivers from breaking the law and being a serious threat to other road users and themselves.
It would seem therefore that it is driver attitudes which need to be tackled, through both advertising campaigns and educational workshops at public events, schools and colleges.
The RAC Foundation takes the simple stance of- Don’t Drink and Drive and would remind motorists that sobering up can take a long time and therefore driving the morning after you’ve “had a few”- should be avoided.