• Monday, May 20, 2024

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Doctors push for stricter drink-driving limit for safer roads

The current legal limit of 80mg alcohol per 100ml blood, set in 1967, is considered the highest in Europe

Studies indicate that driving at the 80mg limit significantly increases the risk of a car crash by nearly three times compared to driving sober (Representative Image: iStock)

By: Kimberly Rodrigues

In a bid to enhance road safety, doctors are calling for a tighter drink-driving limit in England and Wales,The Times reported.

The current legal limit of 80mg alcohol per 100ml blood, set in 1967, is considered the highest in Europe.

The British Medical Association (BMA), which deems the existing law “behind the times,” approved a motion at its annual conference in Liverpool to advocate for lowering the limit to 50mg, matching the limit implemented in Scotland since 2014.

However, critics argue that such a change would negatively impact the pub industry, especially in rural areas.

Studies indicate that driving at the 80mg limit significantly increases the risk of a car crash by nearly three times compared to driving sober.

In contrast, Australia, New Zealand, and most European countries enforce a blood alcohol limit of 50mg, roughly equivalent to consuming one small glass of wine.

Some nations, like Sweden, Slovakia, and Hungary, adopt a zero-tolerance approach.

Sir Ian Gilmore, president of the BMA, expressed his desire to reduce the harm caused by alcohol and highlighted the need for alignment with other European countries.

He proposed lowering the limit to 20mg per 100ml, like the Scandinavian countries.

Dr Simon Minkoff, a GP from Manchester, emphasised that the 80mg limit no longer reflects evidence-based practices and exposes society to unnecessary risks.

Drink driving in the UK leads to 220 fatalities and 6,480 casualties annually, according to government statistics.

Offenders can face penalties of up to six months in prison, an unlimited fine, and a minimum one-year driving ban.

Dr Katherine Severi, chief executive at the Institute of Alcohol Studies, echoed the call for a reduction in the drink-driving limit.

She highlighted the avoidable nature of alcohol-related deaths and injuries and cited evidence suggesting that aligning the UK’s limit with Scotland’s 50mg limit could lead to an 11% decrease in fatal alcohol-related crashes.

However, Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, expressed reservations about lowering the limit, citing the experience in Scotland where pub trade was negatively impacted without a significant reduction in accidents and fatalities.

He argued that proposals to reduce the limit to nearly zero are anti-alcohol policies rather than road safety measures.

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