Could England be next to lower the Drink Drive Limit?

Back in December 2014, a new law was enforced in Scotland making the legal drink drive limit lower than anywhere else in the UK. The change reduces the legal alcohol limit from 35mg to 22mg per 100ml of breath, likewise in a sample of blood the reduction has gone from 80mg to 50mg in every 100ml.

Experts say that the new limits would mean that an average man would be limited to just under a pint of beer or a large glass of wine, and women to half a pint of beer or a small glass of wine. For those residing in England and Wales the limits have remained the same, however discussions are now taking place about lowering the drink driving limit here.

Aside from the current debate regarding the drink-driving limits, there have been changes to the rights of those arrested on suspicion of drink driving.

Section 8(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 states;

of any two specimens of breath provided by any person in pursuance of section 7 of this Act that with the lower proportion of alcohol in the breath shall be used and the other shall be disregarded’

However, until now section 8(2) of the Road Traffic Act provided a suspect with the following right;

‘If the specimen with the lower proportion of alcohol contains no more than 50 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, the person who provided it may claim that it should be replaced by such specimen as may be required under section 7(4) of this Act and, if he then provides such a specimen, neither specimen of breath shall be used’

The specimens referred to in section 7(4) are specimens of blood or urine. This right has been in existence for the past 40 years in relation to drivers who have produced a specimen of breath of less than 50mg of alcohol in 100ml of breath. The right has now been removed.

Critics have long campaigned for a change in the law. They have long suggested that when a request for providing a sample of blood or urine is made by someone who blew below 50mg, the time that would elapse between the sample being taken and the initial request would almost certainly mean the reading would fall below the statutory limit, meaning no prosecution could be brought. If that is right then the changes in the law will mean that many more people who blow below 50mg will find themselves being prosecuted.

It has been predicted that the lower drink drive limit will save lives. Scotland’s Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said;

Scotland is leading the way across the UK. The new limit has backing from experts, road safety campaigners and the majority of the public north and south of the border. This change will bring Scotland into line with most of Europe. It’s not about criminalising drivers, it’s about making our roads safer and sending a clear message that even one alcoholic drink will affect the ability to drive. All the evidence from the Republic of Ireland shows reducing the limit means less convictions and lower blood alcohol counts. Today we are sending a clear message to drivers who continue to ignore the warnings that there is never an excuse to drink and drive.’

However, UK Road Safety Minister Robert Goodwill has said; ‘Britain already has tough penalties to tackle drink driving and the government believes increased enforcement is a more effective deterrent than a change in the law. We are removing the automatic right for drivers who fail a breathalyser test to demand a blood and urine test. High risk offenders are now also required to prove they are no longer alcohol-dependent before being allowed to drive.’

Who knows what Parliament in the future will decide to do; it may only be a matter of time before these new limits are imposed in England, but until then if you require any assistance in relation to this new guidance, please contact the criminal department of our Leicester or Loughborough offices.