UK Government

Department for Transport: Independent expert appointed on drink and drug driving

Press Release   •   Dec 03, 2009 11:15 GMT

An independent expert has been appointed to examine possible changes to the law on drink and drug driving, Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis announced today as he launched the Government’s Christmas drink drive campaign.

Sir Peter North will advise on the case for changes to the drink driving limit as well as on whether there is a need to tighten the law on drug driving.

For both drink and drugs, the study will also consider the likely impacts of any changes on driver behaviour, and the practical steps needed to support the introduction of any new or revised offence.

The Department for Transport also today launched its £1.2m THINK! Christmas drink drive campaign, including a new Driver Friendly initiative which will see designated drivers at thousands of pubs across the country receiving free or discounted soft drinks.

Andrew Adonis said:

“Road safety has improved significantly in recent years – 1,000 fewer people now die on the roads in a year than in the mid-1990s – and Britain now has one of the safest road systems in the world.

“But we need to cut further the number of tragedies on our roads. Drink driving killed 430 people last year and research suggests drug driving is a key concern for the public.

“To reduce drink and drug driving accidents there may be a case for further strengthening the law. I have appointed Sir Peter North to provide me with independent advice on lowering the drink drive limit and tackling drug driving through a new offence.”

Sir Peter North said:

“Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs still leads to a large number of deaths and serious injuries.  The challenge is to see whether changes in the law and its processes can reduce casualties.

“The legal and practical issues are not easy to resolve but I intend to consult widely on these matters.  I shall form my own independent views on them with the objective of providing advice by the end of March.”

Sir Peter will provide advice on the merit of specific proposals for changes to the legislative regime for drink and drug driving.

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. It is already illegal to drive while impaired by a drug but a new offence might make it illegal to drive with named drugs in the system at specified levels, in the way that it is already an offence to drive with a specified level of alcohol in the blood.

Sir Peter will provide this advice to the Department for Transport by the end of March 2010 and the Department will then consult on its findings and publish a final road safety strategy.

This year’s THINK! campaign - which includes TV adverts as well as new radio, internet, national press and in-pub advertising - reminds drivers, and young men in particular: If you get caught drink driving you risk losing your car for at least 12 months.

The Driver Friendly campaign is supported by soft drinks manufacturers and pub chains across the country with offers on Coca-Cola soft drinks for designated drivers in more than 8,000 pubs nationwide and a variety of other promotions including discounts and free drinks.

The police aim to carry out a record number of road side breath tests this Christmas so drink drivers are more likely than ever to be caught and punished.

Notes to editors

1.Andrew Adonis announced to Parliament today that an independent expert had been appointed to examine possible changes to the law on drink and drug driving. The statement is available here: http://www.dft.gov.uk/press/speechesstatements/statements/drinkdriving

2. Sir Peter North has been asked to provide 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.  This report will inform the final contents of the next road safety strategy. 

3. The full scope and terms of reference are available on the DfT website at: http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/roadsafety/drivinglaws/termsofref/.   It will be a matter for Sir Peter how he proceeds; and he will act wholly independently in publishing his conclusions and advice.

4. 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. 

5. Copies of the new THINK! campaign radio, posters, national press and TV adverts are available on request from the DfT press office.

6. Driving a vehicle whilst over the legal limit or unfit through drink or drugs, or failing to provide a specimen of breath, blood or urine, could result in a driving ban of at least 12 months, six months' imprisonment, plus a fine of up to £5,000. The legal limit in the UK is 80 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood.

7. Statistics on casualties and accidents involving drinking and driving in Great Britain in 2008, can be found at www.dft.gov.uk/excel/173025/221412/221549/227755/503336/article3.xls

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