Call for Cut to Drink Drive Limit

First results from AA/Populus Panel of 17,500

21 April 2008

Two thirds of AA members support calls for a reduction in the drink drive limit, according to the results of the biggest dedicated motoring panel in the UK released today (21).

The first results from the new AA/Populus panel represent the views of almost 17,500 AA members1. While 66% of panellists were in favour of lowering the drink drive limit, one fifth (20%) opposed this.

Women were particularly likely to support stricter limits on the amount of alcohol drivers were allowed to consume, with 75% of women in favour compared with 62% of men.

Younger drivers (18-24) were less likely to strongly support a reduction (42%) than older drivers of whom 50% of the 35-54 age group strongly supported a reduction.

In terms of regional variations there was greatest support for a drink drive reduction in Wales and Scotland (72%) and least support in the London region (61%). This is perhaps surprising as one may have assumed that due to difficulties of using public transport in more remote parts that support for a reduction might be lower.

Regional support

Wales 72%
Scotland 72%
North East 70%
Northern Ireland 70%
West Midlands 68%
Eastern 68%
Yorks & Humberside 68%
East Midlands 67%
South 66%
North West 65%
West Country 64%
London 61%

Zero Tolerance

The current limit is 80 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. Although difficult to quantify this is broadly equivalent to one and a half pints of ordinary strength beer for the average person.

Surprisingly 30% opted for a zero limit which perhaps reflected an attitude of zero tolerance to drink driving. Twenty eight per cent are content with the current limit but of those there is a marked difference in the sexes with 34% of males supporting it as against just 18% of females.

The AA has pointed out in the past that the majority killed in drink drive crashes are way above the limit rather than being just above it or below it.

65 lives per year

A change to a 50mg limit would put us in line with most European countries. Recent reports suggest that 65 lives per year could be saved by such a move.( Allsop, Richard. 2005. 'How Much is Too Much? Lowering the Drink Drive Limit'.)

Other European countries with the 50 limit do though have different penalties which often are not as tough as the UK 12 month ban which is virtually a minimum sentence. If the Government decides to legislate for a reduction, the AA will suggest that for 6 /12 months prior to introduction of the new lower limit the police should issue advisory letters to those found to be between 50 - 80 mg.

Widespread Support

Edmund King, president of the AA said; "We have set up the biggest motoring panel in the UK to get clearer guidance on policy issues from our members. The first results of the AA/Populus panel clearly show that there is now widespread support for a reduction in the drink drive limit. Although many of those killed in drink drive crashes are way above the current limit, a move to a lower limit would send out a clear message about the dangers of drink driving and put us in line with most European countries. Whatever the legal limit, the best safety advice is, if you are going to drive don't drink, and if you are going to drink, don't drive."

Transport Select Committee Evidence

The AA/Populus panel figures will be presented to the House of Commons Transport Select Committee by Andrew Howard, AA's head of road safety later this week in an investigation into road safety. He will also stress that the reduction of 65 deaths will still leave approximately 500 deaths a year involving drinking drivers, and that although a reduction will send out a strong signal it is not a panacea for the drink drive problem.

Notes to Editors

1AA/Populus panel of 17,481 AA members conducted between 14 March and 9 April 2008

The AA intends to continue recruiting members to the panel.

In 2006 drivers over 80mg were estimated to be involved in 540 road deaths, 1960 serious injuries and 11880 slight injuries(14380 total).

Lowest year for deaths was 1998 with 460, highest year was 2003 and 2004 at 580.

96,000 drivers were convicted for drink driving in 2004. Most breathalyser tests were carried out in 1998 (816000, this coincided with lowest deaths, all time recent low 534000 tests in 2003 coincided with highest deaths).

24 per cent of drivers killed are over 80mg, and 3 per cent of other vehicle drivers killed are between 50 and 80mg, 7 per cent are between 150 and 200mg and 9 per cent are over 200 (this leaves 8 per cent between 80 and 150).

Young drivers have the highest drink drive accidents per driver and per mile driven, three to four times the average.

AA Public Affairs


29 August 2008