Roddy Graham's blog: Friday 5 February 2010 - No limit to driving change
05 February 2010
Hot on the heels of moves to lower speed limits comes news of a campaign to lower drink-drive limits, something else I predicted in our recent white paper, 'A vision of fleet management in 2015. Predictions on how the fleet industry could look in the future'.
Safety charity Brake has come down hard on the government for its inertia in a number of areas. While road deaths have fallen to their lowest levels for over 80 years, dipping below 3000 per annum, Brake quite rightly does not want any form of complacency to creep in and is calling for a ten-year road safety plan. Well, fat chance of that if government cannot put together a fully integrated transport policy! After all, road safety would form just one key element of this much needed, and still to be delivered, vision.
In a broadside at government at its annual meeting, Brake accused the government of living "in the stone age" on drink-drive limits. One of its trustees, a solicitor, advised that while many countries had only trace limits and checked one in every two drivers annually we only check fewer than two per cent! While this may sound horrifically low, the cold facts show that positive breath tests are falling so the message is getting across.
In the largest ever national campaign run in the UK over the Christmas and New Year period covering the period between 1 December 2009 and 1 January 2010, 183,397 drivers were breath tested in England and Wales during the four-week campaign. Nationally, 9148 drivers tested were arrested, representing five per cent of the sample. This was reflected in most of the 43 police forces up and down the country and shows a continued fall in those testing positive. However, it still means 300 drivers a day were above the limit.
Apparently, in the last five years of Christmas drink-drive campaigns there has been a year-on-year reduction in the number of collisions in which drinking was a contributory factor. Provisional figures for the latest national campaign indicate a fall in the number of injury road traffic collisions reported during the campaign period compared to the same period last year.
However, in the latest official statistics, in 2007 460 died as a result of drink-driving so that means there can indeed be no room for complacency and more needs to be done, as demanded by Brake.
In our white paper, we predicted that, "given the British Medical Council's strong views on unhealthy alcohol consumption and its efforts to have all alcohol advertising banned across the board, this will be the trigger to bring current drink-driving limits more into line with Continental Europe."
And that is not a new stance from me. In a BusinessCar blog dating back to 23 July 2008, I said, "One thing I would agree on is the proposal by the government's chief medical officer's call for a zero tolerance approach to teenage drivers involved in accidents after drinking. If the thousand deaths through accidents involving 15 to 24 year-olds mainly involve road accidents then something needs to be done, as the total number of road deaths is now below 3000 for the first time in over 80 years. Apparently, many countries already adopt a zero blood alcohol limit for young drivers and it might help towards addressing the overall binge drinking culture among the young."
Tackling binge drinking and drink-driving has to be a top priority for any government.