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Emergency service leaders call for lower drink drive limit

Representatives from the Police, Paramedic and Fire Services have today written to the Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, calling on him to lower the legal drink drive limit.

The letter coincides with the report stage in the House of Lords today of a bill to lower the drink drive limit. The Road Traffic Act (Amendment) bill, introduced by Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, is aimed at lowering the limit from 80mg alcohol per 100ml blood to 50mg/100ml.

The letter is signed by the Police Federation’s Road Policing Lead, Jayne Willetts, the General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, Matt Wrack, and the Chair of the College of Paramedics, Andy Newton, who outline the impact of drink driving on the emergency services, saying:

Drink driving places significant pressure on the emergency services, causing thousands of road traffic incidents every year which have to be addressed by police forces, fire services and paramedics. There has been no reduction in drink driving deaths since 2010, and surveys show that significant numbers of drivers still put themselves, and others, at risk.

England and Wales have one of the most lenient drink drive limits in Europe, set at 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. Drivers who drink up to this current limit are six times more likely to die in a car crash compared with drivers who have not drunk. Scotland lowered the limit for drink driving in 2014 to 50mg/100ml and after nine months rates of drink driving offences fell by 12%. The only other country with a legal limit as high as the UK’s is Malta, with every other European country setting its limit at 50mg or lower. Signatories to today’s letter say:

Reducing the limit to 50mg would ease the burden on our emergency services, freeing up time and resource for other serious incidents. This change is consistently supported by over 70% of the public and, most importantly of all, it would save lives.

The letter puts further pressure on the government to lower the limit, as it follows previous calls from the Alcohol Health Alliance, medical royal colleges and road safety bodies for the limit to be lowered, and polling which has demonstrated high levels of public support for a lower limit. At the end of 2015, the Alcohol Health Alliance polled 5,000 people across the UK, finding that 77% support a lower limit.