Drink, Drugs and Driving

AA reaction to drink/drug review by Sir Peter North QC

3 December 2009

Commenting on the statement issued today by Road Safety Minister Paul Clark MP on drink/drug driving, Edmund King, AA President, said:

"Drink and drug driving have been flagged up in the top three issues of concern to motorists in an AA/Populus poll of 15,000 motorists last month. We welcome the fact that the Government will seek a fresh look at the legal complexities surrounding drink and drug driving."

Earlier this year the AA hosted a top level Drug Driving Seminar to try to thrash out some of the potential enforcement problems. We will be happy to feed in our views to Sir Peter North.

We are pleased that these complex issues will be addressed. Sixty six per cent of AA members have indicated that they would support a lower drink drive limit with 20% opposed. However, the legal issue is more complex than the limit as a sliding scale of penalties could reduce the deterrent effect. There is a serious problem with drink drive repeat offenders with recent figures from the East of England suggesting that almost a quarter of drink drivers are repeat offenders.

There is much more that needs to be done to help the police to combat drug driving and we look forward to a clearer strategy in this area.

The fabric of motoring law

Earlier this year in the AA's response to the Government's compliance consultation we stated:

It is very important that the effect of each and every change suggested in this consultation is considered in regard to other offences. There is an established hierarchy to offences today, and seriousness of offence and punishment reflect that hierarchy. This is generally considered to be fair. Care needs to be taken that changes to the system do not undermine the perception of fairness, or make it easy for some to avoid punishment that others have little choice but to accept.

Extract from Government statement

"I have therefore asked Sir Peter North to provide me with advice on the merit of specific proposals for changes to the legislative regime for drink and drug driving, reporting by the end of March 2010. Sir Peter is an internationally renowned legal expert whose previous studies include the review of traffic law which led to the Road Traffic Act 1991 and his 1997 report on marches and parades in Northern Ireland which led to the Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1998. It will be a matter for Sir Peter how he proceeds; and he will act wholly independently in publishing his conclusions and advice.

"This report will inform the final contents of the next road safety strategy. For drink driving, the report will advise on the case for changes to the prescribed alcohol limit for driving (either reducing the current limit, or adding a new, lower limit, with an associated revised penalty regime). For drug driving, the study will advise on whether there is a need for new legislation to make it an offence to drive with a named substance in the body. For both drink and drugs, the study will also set out the likely impacts of any changes on driver behaviour, and the practical steps needed to support introduction of any or revised offence. I have placed a copy of the terms of reference for the review in the House Library."

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4 December 2009