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Government closes drink-drive loophole with legislation change

Date: 21 May 2013   |   Author: Hugh Hunston

The Government has acted to close a loophole that allowed motorists found guilty of drink-driving and also deemed high-risk offenders to be back on the road at the end of their bans - before the results of a medical examination were known.

It is one of the key measures under revised drink-driving laws coming into force on 1 June. A revised drink drive rehabilitation scheme (DDRS) also comes into force on 24 June and will cost up to £250 for offenders opting for the programme.

Currently, all high-risk offenders can get back behind the wheel once they have re-applied for their licence, and only then have to pass a medical examination to prove they are no longer dependent on alcohol.

The legislative change means their licences can only be re-issued after passing the strict medical.

The Department for Transport points to evidence that some higher-risk road users were delaying their examinations in order to continue driving.

High-risk offenders are defined as those whose blood-alcohol levels were at least 2.5 times over the legal limit, those who refused to provide specimens, and drivers who have committed two or more drink-driving offences within 10 years.

Road safety minister Stephen Hammond said: "Drink drivers area menace and it is right that we do everything we can to keep the most high-risk offenders off the road.

"These changes will tighten up the law on drink driving and mean the most dangerous offenders will have to prove they are no longer dependent on alcohol before they are allowed to get back behind the wheel."

Neil Greig, IAM director of policy and research, claimed the new rules would be welcomed by the law-abiding majority, but said repeat offending was still "far too high and the Government should urgently consider bringing in a vehicle forfeiture scheme like that in Scotland".

While agreeing that DDRS courses were a worthwhile option, he added that selfishness among problem drivers required the strongest possible punishment.

Changes to the DDRS initiative, which does not apply to drug-driving offenders, mean a ban can be reduced by at least three months but drivers who qualify must attend a minimum of three sessions and a total of 16 hours of tuition.

Last year, out of 50,000 drink-driving convictions 22,000 involved high-risk offenders.