Motorists could face random breath testsReport says drink-driving still a major problem

27 February 2007

Drivers could face random breath-tests under government proposals to curb drink-driving.

A review of road safety strategy published by the Department for Transport (DfT) said it would start consulting on the move this year.

While keeping the blood-alcohol limit under review, the DfT feels that the most effective way of tackling drink-driving is through tougher enforcement.

Drink-drive limit

A rise in breath tests during Christmas 2006 was matched by a fall in drink-related accidents, according to today's Second Review of the government's Road Safety Strategy.

‘During this review, many stakeholders have advocated reducing the UK's blood alcohol limit from 80mg to 50mg,' it stated. 'But the limit cannot be considered in isolation. The UK has stringent penalties for drink driving, and has better enforcement than many countries that have lower limits.

‘We will keep under review the case for a reduction in the blood alcohol limit.

‘But our first priority is to improve the enforcement of the current limit, building on the recent achievements of the police.

‘We are confident that this has the potential to deliver a substantial further reduction in deaths and serious injuries, so continuing the good progress of recent years.

‘And it is right that we should first ensure effective enforcement of the existing limit, so as to tackle those who are the most seriously impaired.’

Road deaths

The report said that latest statistics confirmed that drink-driving was ‘still a major problem’, with 17 per cent of road deaths occurring when the driver is over the alcohol limit.

Despite a decline in drink-related deaths in 2005, they were still higher than in 1998 and 1999.

The government has identified an inverse relationship between the number of breath tests and the frequency of drink-related deaths.

Between 1994 and 1998, drink-related deaths fell as the number of tests rose. But from 1998 until 2003, as the number of tests fell so the amount of drink-drive fatalities increased.

Random tests

Currently police can only impose breath tests on motorists they suspect of being over the limit.

But in the document, the DfT said: ‘We will start a process of consultation in 2007 to ... explore ways that enforcement might be made easier for the police, including the possibility of allowing fully random breath testing.’

It will also look at bigger roles in attempts to reduce drink-driving for the licensing authorities, service stations and pub landlords and an extension of incentive schemes for designated drivers.

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