Call to lower legal drink-drive limit in bid to make roads safer and save lives
The legal drink-drive limit should be lowered in England and Wales to cut alcohol-related accidents, councils and fire authorities have urged.
The Local Government Association (LGA) and all fire and rescue authorities in England and Wales are calling for the current limit to be lowered from 80mg to 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.
The Scottish Government reduced its legal limit for drivers to 50mg in December 2014 and Northern Ireland will also soon drop its limit to the same level, and even lower for professional and learner drivers.
The LGA said it was estimated that lowering the limit in England and Wales could save up to 170 lives in the first year, rising to more than 300 lives in the sixth year.
A lower limit would also save £300 million annually by reducing the number of 999 responses and hospital admissions.
It cited new provisional government figures showing that reported "serious" drink-drive accidents between 2014 and 2015 in Great Britain had risen from 880 to 980, an increase of 11%, while total reported drink-drive accidents had increased by 2% from 5,620 to 5,740.
The same figures showed the number of people seriously injured in reported drink-drive accidents between 2014 and 2015 had risen from 1,070 to 1,170, an increase of 9%, while the total number of drink-drive casualties had increased by 3% from 8,210 to 8,480.
The organisations said England and Wales had one of the highest drink-drive limits in the world and the highest in Europe, with the exception of Malta, which has also announced plans to lower its limit to 50mg.
Between 2010 and 2015 the number of people killed in reported drink-drive accidents has remained between 220 and 240.
Simon Blackburn, chairman of the LGA's Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: "England and Wales will soon have the highest drink-drive limit in Europe, which is not sending the right message to motorists and safety campaigners.
"Latest figures show that alcohol has contributed to a rise in both the number of road accidents and those injured in the UK.
"The Government should be leading by example by toughening up drink-drive laws in line with other European countries which will make roads safer and save lives. In Scotland alone, adopting a lower alcohol limit has led to a significant fall in fatal road accidents.
"A lower alcohol limit would help to deter motorists from drinking at all before getting behind the wheel and encourage them to have 'none for the road'."
The Department for Transport spokesman said the Government believed that rigorous enforcement and severe penalties for drink driving were a more effective deterrent than changing the drink drive limit.
He said: "Those over the current drink driving limit cause a disproportionate amount of harm. These are the people we need to focus our efforts and resources upon.
"Our roads continue to be amongst the safest in the world because we crack down on those who break the law."
Neil Greig, director of policy and research at road safety charity IAM RoadSmart, said: "IAM RoadSmart and its members are very supportive of a lower limit.
"The early experience in Scotland is that a lower limit encourages a 'none for the road' approach, which is good for road safety as you are up to six times more likely to crash even below the English limit.
"The Government are, however, correct that lower limits are often ignored by the selfish minority who have an alcohol problem.
"Consistent enforcement through high-profile policing and better use of intelligence must continue to address the hard core drinker problem."