Call for cut in drink-drive limit

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Call for cut in drink-drive limit

Post by Admin on Sun Aug 10, 2008 10:06 pm

SIXTY per cent of men and more than 40% of women admit to driving after drinking alcohol, according to shocking new research by a road safety charity.

The charity Brake is today calling on the Government to drastically cut the drink-drive limit from 80mg to 20mg per 100ml of blood after a dramatic increase in the number of alcohol-related road deaths over the past year.

Its UK-wide research, carried out in conjunction with car insurers Green Flag, shows that just one drink can be too many for some drivers and that there is “no such thing” as a safe blood alcohol limit for driving.

While women are less likely to run the risk of breaking the drink-drive limit, the number of female drivers being convicted of drink-driving is on the up.

The research coincides with the launch of BSM’s National Road Victim Month, with its statistics showing road deaths have risen by 60% in Gwent and South Wales since 2003.

Meanwhile more than 75% of breath tests carried out in Gwent tested positive in the last year – the highest proportion in the UK.

Brake’s campaigns manager Cathy Keeler said more needed to be done to combat drink-driving in Wales. She said: “People think it won’t happen to them, that they won’t get caught, they won’t be involved in a crash. We must challenge these presumptions in order to change drivers’ attitudes.

“The thought of getting caught, and the consequences, need to seem a very real prospect for drivers who through selfishness or ignorance continue to put lives at risk by getting behind the wheel after drinking.

“For drivers who do want to abide by the law, we must make it easy for them to do so by sending out a very clear message – that even one drink is one too many.”

The drink-drive limit is “confusingly high” in comparison with other EU countries, according to the charity. The EU recommends a limit of 50mg per 100ml of blood, and several countries including Poland, Sweden and Norway have gone beyond this by setting their limits at 20mg.

Brake is also campaigning to give police the powers to conduct targeted and random breath tests, so they no longer have to wait until a driver has been in a crash or shows visible signs of deterioration in their driving.

These could be at times when there is a high risk of people risking drink-driving, such as pub or nightclub closing times. They say that would require more funding for extra roads policing officers to enforce the law.

Road safety experts from across the UK have called on the Government to reduce the drink-drive limit.

A Brake spokeswoman said: “If people are considering drinking and driving, then the risk of being caught and the resulting consequences should be a very real deterrent. While there are 33.4 million vehicles on British roads, just 601,600 breath tests were carried out in England and Wales in 2006. Without the police to enforce a new limit any change in the law will remain theoretical.”

Green Flag spokesman Dan Robinson said: “We would encourage all drivers, male and female, to think about the consequences of driving after having a drink.

“Even one drink can impair judgement and affect our ability to drive. If you are planning on driving, the safest option really is to have nothing to at all to drink.”

BSM road safety consultant Robin Cummins said: “Road safety is a life skill. These statistics show that there is a vast divide between age groups and even regions across the UK. By working with those who are yet to learn to drive at a grass-roots level, we can begin to develop the skills necessary for a lifetime of enjoyable and accident-free motoring.”

‘I crashed simulator’

Without alcohol in my system, driving the BSM simulator was like being behind the wheel of any other vehicle, writes Sarah Miloudi. I had to carry out full safety checks – alter the car’s mirrors, fasten my seatbelt and ensure the car was in neutral gear before I could pull away – and had to monitor my speed limit and check for potential hazards at all times during my 10-minute journey.

At the end of the first assessment phase, and still after consuming no alcohol, I had completed the journey with only a few errors, namely pulling away from the kerb too quickly and not checking my side mirrors frequently enough.

I wasn’t involved in any collisions, and put the impairment of my driving skills down to the alien environment of the simulator.

However, after two 175ml glasses of wine, my reactions felt much poorer. Even though I was legally fit to drive, I felt I shouldn’t as my vision was blurred.

My assessment results after drinking the two glasses – a total of 350ml – were poor, and my drive along the road ended with a crash.

I couldn’t calculate stopping distances and as a result hit a vehicle in front of my car when I stopped at traffic lights.

A look at the science behind drink-driving

Alcohol may give you a feeling of wellbeing but, actually, it is a depressant which slows down the processes of the brain.

Scientifically, it affects your driving performance in a number of ways.

The likelihood of a serious accident increases because alcohol lessens muscular control and impairs your co-ordination. In turn, that means that your reaction time is lengthened, meaning you cannot respond to changes on the road quickly enough. Drinking before driving also blurs your vision and decreases your awareness of what is going on around you, especially in darkness. Your ability to judge speed and distance are also greatly reduced, as is your ability to deal with the unexpected.

But even before you get in the car, drinking creates problems.

Experts say drink impairs your judgment of how fit you are to drive, so that under the influence of alcohol you may genuinely believe yourself to be driving better than you really are.

Source: Transport and Road Research Laboratory
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