The police want to slash the drink-drive limit by nearly a half amid concerns that women drivers are increasingly being caught over the limit. The Police Federation of England and Wales has called for the tougher legislation. It could mean a pint of beer will be enough to put some drivers over the drink-drive limit.
Currently the drink-drive limit in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. The Police Federation, which represents regular police officers, wants that reduced to 50mg per 100ml of blood. The new limit would bring the rest of the UK into line with Scotland which adopted the lower threshold in December.
The current drink-drive limit is the equivalent of two to three units of alcohol. While the strength of drinks varies, a 175ml glass of wine is around 2.1 units; a 500ml bottle of beer can be between 1.8 and 2.6 units. Gus Park, director of motor at Direct Line which has conducted research into drink driving, said: “England and Wales boast one of the most permissive drink-drive limits in Europe, but there is widespread support from the public for lowering this.”
Since it reduced its drink-drive limit at the end of 2014, drink driving prosecutions in Scotland have fallen by a third. The Direct Line findings show that 36 per cent of people support a hard-line stance towards drink driving with a zero tolerance approach. The insurer’s research revealed that the number of women caught exceeding the drink-drive limit had almost doubled between 1998 and 2012. From making up nine per cent of convictions, women drivers now contribute 17 per cent. In addition, one in six women claimed they’d driven after drinking.
Chief inspector Victoria Martin of the Police Federation said: “We’ve seen a steep decline in men drink-driving over the years, with targeted advertising campaigns, which is great, but women don’t seem to be getting the same message.” The Direct Line research found that taking into account mileage driven, women drivers aged 30-plus are proportionately more likely to be over the legal drink-drive limit than males of the same age. However, women are on average three times less likely to be breath tested than men – rising to five times in some areas.
Gus Park added: “The issue of women and drink driving is rarely addressed. But the figures reveal a worrying new normal as millions of women regularly consume alcohol and take to the roads. Roadside testing is an important drink driving deterrent but we know women are on average three times less likely to get breath tested by the police than men. Many female motorists who admit to drink driving cite a low risk of getting caught as a key reason, suggesting that this imbalance could well be contributing to the rise in women drink driving that we’ve seen in recent years.”
Road safety charities the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and Brake both backed the police plea for a lower drink-drive limit. RoSPA’s head of road safety Kevin Clinton said: “Despite decades of drink-drive education and enforcement, more than 75,000 people are still caught drink driving every year in England and Wales. Between four and five people die in drink-drive accidents every week. In 2012, provisional figures show that 230 people were killed, and 1,200 were seriously injured in drink-drive crashes.”