Lower limit and ‘French style’ breathalyser law could help to save more lives

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Following the debate of a Private Members’ Bill in the House of Lords on Friday, which sought to lower the drink-drive limit in England and Wales to the same as Scotland, alcohol safety experts say more lives could be saved with the introduction of a breathalyser law.

In France, where the drink-drive limit has been the same as Scotland’s for many years, a legal requirement for all motorists to keep a breathalyser in their vehicle was introduced in 2012. Following its implementation the breathalyser law has made a significant contribution to road safety in France. Figures released last year by France’s road safety board the CISR [comité interministériel de sécurité routière] reported an 8% decrease in road deaths in 2013 – just one year after the breathalyser law came into force and the lowest level of fatalities on French roads since 1948.

In comparison, in 2014 alone alcohol accounted for 5,650 accidents and 8,320 casualties on UK roads and figures for fatalities have remained static since 2010 with an increase in deaths even being recorded between 2012 and 2013.

Suzannah Robin, an alcohol safety expert who has helped dozens of local authorities and councils to implement their alcohol testing policies for staff, said: “The introduction of a lower drink-drive limit in England and Wales to fall in line with Scotland will save hundreds of lives.

“However, as results in France have shown, there is the opportunity to save dozens of more lives through the introduction of a similar breathalyser law across the UK.”

There is increasing support for drink-drive safety in the UK with the latest AHA (Alcohol Health Alliance) poll revealing that 77% of people would support a reduction in the drink-drive limit.

Sales of breathalysers in the UK to individuals wanting to ensure they are alcohol-free before they drive have also quadrupled since the introduction of the French breathalyser law in 2012 and the reduction in the drink-drive limit in Scotland in December 2014. Most recently retail giant Tesco introduced single use morning after breathalysers into their UK fuel stations with sales increasing five-fold in the first six weeks of trading revealing that there is a growing understanding amongst drivers of the devastating effects that drink-driving can have on lives.

Suzannah added: “We wholeheartedly support a reduction in the drink-drive limit in England and Wales however more needs to be done to address issues such as drivers who are unaware that they may still not be safe to drive the morning after drinking. We would actively encourage a debate on introducing a breathalyser law to the UK so that even more lives can be saved.”