Commons Transport Committee

AA Evidence on Drink & Drug Driving Law

15 September 2010

Targeting drink and drug drivers may suffer if cuts to police budgets affect frontline staff, according to the AA President, in his evidence to the Commons Transport Select Committee on Tuesday 14 September.

In his evidence to the Committee Inquiry into the Drink and Drug Driving Laws, Edmund King, AA President, said: "The Automobile Association has long been highlighting the hidden problems of drugs and driving.

"The North report reflected many AA recommendations and made use of our AA/Populus panel results to ascertain the views of the motoring public.

"Our members want action on drug driving and also support a reduction in the drink drive limit together with a 12 month ban.

"Drink driving accounts for some 430 deaths per year and if better records were kept we estimate that an extra 215 deaths may be due to drug driving or a combination of drugs and alcohol. Hence a quarter of all road deaths are caused by drink or drug driving so it is essential that further action is taken.

"The AA believes that more focus needs to be given to the problems of drug driving.

"We would like to see the greater use of drug screening devices, a clarification of the law and a call for coroners to test for the presence of drugs in road fatalities. However, changes to the law on drink and drug driving will have little effect if the police do not have adequate resources to enforce the law."

AA Recommendations

The following recommendations were proposed by the AA to the Select Committee.

Drink Driving

  • Lowering of drink drive limit to 50mg/100ml
  • Review 20mg limit for new drivers after 5 years
  • Maintain a 12 month ban at 50mg
  • Target cars of high risk offenders
  • Deployment of portable evidential breath testing equipment
  • Higher policing priority
  • 79% AA members support random breath tests

Drug Driving

  • Coroners should test for drugs in all fatalities
  • Volunatray roadside saliva tests
  • Greater use of Field Impairment tests (FIT) and training
  • Drug driving to be made an 'offence brought to justice'
  • Speed up the process with use of nurses rather than forensic physicians
  • Look to type approval of police station drug screening kits
  • Look to a specific offence of driving with certain controlled drugs at levels deemed impairing
  • Better NHS training and clearer labelling On legal drugs

AA/Populus Panel findings



Q. There are regular calls for a lowering of the drink drive limit. Do you support or oppose such calls?

66% support and 20% oppose

Strongly support 49%
Somewhat support 17%
Neither support nor oppose 12%
Somewhat oppose 8%
Strongly oppose 12%
Don't know 1%

(The sample size for that poll (in April/May 2008) was 17481)

Q.Do you think the police should have greater powers to stop drivers to test if they are impaired or over the limit (eg random testing)?

79% of the respondents to the AA/Populus survey were in favour of the police being able to breathalyse a driver at any time. Only 16% were opposed.

Q.The current blood-alcohol limit for drivers is 80 mg in 100 ml. Those caught driving with alcohol levels above this limit are banned from driving for 12 months. If the limit was reduced to 50 mg in 100 ml of blood, should there be...?

A lower disqualification period of 6 months (17% support)

The same disqualification period of 12 months (49% support)

A higher disqualification period of more than 12 months (15% support)

No disqualification, but penalty points instead (13% support)

Don't know (6%)

(There were 20129 respondents)

Q.Would you be in favour of a policy that would see the immediate suspension of a person's driving licence where that person fails a breath test?

Of the 20129 respondents, 13909 (68%) answered 'yes', 4203 (21%) answered 'no' and 2251 (12%) 'don't know'.

As is fairly common in this sort of question, support was highest in Scotland and lowest in London.


The AA/Populus panel was unanimous in agreeing that a driver should be prosecuted if there are traces of illegal drugs in his/her body AND is visibly impaired by the drug.

The idea that prosecution should occur if there was any trace of a drug was supported by 72% – even if there was no visible impairment.

Join the discussion in the AA zone


15 September 2010