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Drink-drive limit reduction plans scrapped

UK government ministers have taken the rare step of siding with the pub sector after shelving plans to drastically reduce the drink-drive limit.

the drinks business reported back in June that ministers were considering lowering the current limit of 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg following a formal review by legal expert Sir Peter North.

Road safety groups argue that such a move would save up to 300 lives a year on the UK’s roads, but transport secretary Philip Hammond is not believed to share that view.

Ministers think that lowering the limit would be damaging to rural pubs, who would struggle to attract non-driving patrons through their doors, as well as unnecessarily criminalise millions of sensible drinkers.

Allies of Hammond say he is set to block the “one pint and you’re banned” rule, which could devastate rural economies.

Although he is to delay making a formal announcement on his decision until the completion of a Commons transport select committee enquiry into the issue in November, the minister is said to be “sceptical” over how much difference making such a change would make.

Lowering the drink-drive limit would bring the UK in line with the majority of Europe, but Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, agrees that the move would make little difference in the fight against serial drink-drivers.

“We have broadly favoured a reduction in the drink-drive limit to bring us in line with most of Europe,” he said.

“Drink-driving campaigns have been successful, but education alone has not been completely successful in eradicating what many see as anti-social behaviour.

“Our research suggests 65 lives a year would be saved by a change, though it is unlikely such a policy would encourage hardened offenders – those already way above the current limit – to alter their habits.”

Alan Lodge, 25.08.2010

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