GEM Proposals on Drink Driving Contradictory
Woolly Thinking Destroys Credibility of Safety Messages
GEM (formerly the Guild of Experienced Motorists) has called for a reduction in the allowed blood alcohol limit (BAC) from 80mg to 50mg and more police patrols to deal with an increasing problem of "dangerous drunken drivers", especially amongst younger males.
The ABD demonstrated, in its response to a Government consultation on the 50mg limit nearly ten years ago, (http://www.abd.org.uk/abd-bac.htm) that there is no measurable increase in accident risk between 50mg and 80mg — the 80mg limit was chosen correctly in the 1960s because 80-90mg accurately marks the point where accident risk begins to increase.
"By calling for more police and a lower limit, GEM is shooting road safety in the foot," said ABD spokesman Nigel Humphries. "What's the point of more police patrols tasked to deal with dangerous drunk drivers then distracting them from this duty by creating millions more "offences" through criminalising those whose BAC isn't dangerous?"
It is very worrying that increases in drink driving and in crashes are concentrated amongst younger drivers - but not surprising. These are the people who have grown up in a climate where the road safety industry has lost all credibility with the motoring public.
Accidents caused by extreme behaviour — drunk driving well in excess of the current 80mg limit or vastly excessive speed, often both together and carried out by unqualified and uninsured drivers, have been used as an excuse to introduce laws which criminalise reasonable behaviour and to enforce them on a massive scale. This undermines the public credibility of the law and diverts police resource and focus away from tackling genuinely dangerous drivers.
"This travesty of safety has occurred because of persistent misinformation about the causes of accidents and an absence of reasonable debate on the subject," continues Humphries. "I once heard a resident who lived near a dangerous bend on a main road exclaim "a drunk crashed at 90mph so we want a 30mph limit!". For once I was speechless — this comment summarises all that is wrong with current road safety thinking in one short phrase. No wonder young drivers think its all insane — but they are denied both essential safety guidance and the opportunity to improve skills."
Drink driving legislation could be vastly improved by:
- Increasing the difference in penalties between those who are inadvertently marginally over the limit "the morning after", who are treated far too severely, and those who deliberately drive with two or three times the current limit in their bloodstream, who the law treats with almost incredible leniency.
- Revision of the "drunk in charge" law to prevent someone who is asleep in the back seat of a parked car, or a lorry driver sleeping in a proper sleeper cab, who has not driven and has no intention of driving, being treated the same as a drink driver.
- Much better public information about how long it takes to get rid of alcohol from the system in different circumstances.
- Reinforcement of the message that it is best not to drink and drive at all - not because one drink makes you dangerous because the real life evidence says it doesn't, but because of the difficulty many find in stopping drinking once they have begun and the uncertain relationship between the quantity consumed and the BAC.
- Keeping the limit at 80mg and explaining both why this limit was chosen and why it is correct.
- More Police Officers concentrating on watching for the telltale signs of drunk driving - the best possible deterrence.