Durham Police and Crime Commission calls for stricter drink-driving laws as 'there is no safe level'

Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Joy Allen
-Credit: (Image: Handout)

Durham's Police and Crime Commissioner Joy Allen has urged the Government to reduce the drink-driving limit.

As the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners' (APCC) lead on drink and drug driving, Commissioner Allen was a key speaker at the British Medical Association's (BMA) Alcohol, drugs and driving consensus statement launch event in London.

The consensus calls for a reduction in the drink-driving limit in England, Wales and Northern Ireland from 80mg per 100 millilitres of blood (0.08%), or 35 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath, to lower levels seen in other countries.

It presents comprehensive evidence that reducing the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit for driving can save lives.

Commissioner Allen pointed out that the current threshold in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is one of the highest globally.

Citing fresh research highlighted by the BMA, she stated that drivers who consume alcohol up to this limit are six times more likely to die in a crash.

She said: "Let's be clear - there is no safe limit. Drinking alcohol impairs driving function at miniscule levels - the evidence is undisputable. It's time to take the data seriously and use the experiences of other nations who have successfully driven down collision rates by lowering the limit.

"Reducing deaths and injuries on our roads by drink or drug drivers is not only a professional mission but a personal one. Until we make it perfectly clear in law that alcohol and driving don't mix, then more needless lives will be lost on our roads. I fully support the BMA's consensus statement and will continue to lobby for a zero-tolerance approach that will ensure England and Wales can finally address the rate of drink-drive fatalities that have shown no improvement in more than 30 years."

According to laboratory studies cited by the BMA, drivers start to experience significant impairment in crucial driving skills at low blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels, with notable effects evident at merely 0.05% BAC.

Research conducted within the UK indicates that dropping the BAC threshold from 0.08% to 0.05% can effectively reduce car accidents. Furthermore, estimates from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) made in 2010 imply that adherence to a 0.05% BAC limit could result in the preservation of over 150 lives annually.

The BMA asserts that cutting the BAC limit must go hand in hand with various strategies to successfully curb instances of drink-driving. Measures such as stringent enforcement and public awareness campaigns are vital for influencing driver behaviour positively.

Additionally, the BMA has called for more funding for alcohol and drug treatment services.

Commissioner Allen, who also serves as the APCC's Joint Lead on Addiction and Substance Misuse, stated: "I have been fighting hard to ensure the criminal justice system offers the professional support to help individuals address their dependencies and stop offending. The earlier we identify the signs of problem-drinking, the more we can do to prevent further tragedies and save lives."