Door ajar for drink-drive limit cut09 Feb 2016

Drink-drive limit in England and Wales could fall to that in Scotland

Ministers have left the door ajar for cutting the drink-drive limit in England and Wales if a similar move in Scotland proves successful.

In December 2014 the limit was reduced from 80mg to 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, bringing north of the border into line with the bulk of continental Europe.

Now the transport minister Andrew Jones has said in answer to a written parliamentary question that “I am intending to discuss with the Scottish Minister about the experience of the lower limit in Scotland and about the timescales to get access to robust evidence of the road safety impact.

“It is important to base our decisions on evidence and the Scottish experience will be crucial to that before we consider any possible changes to the limits in England and Wales.

“This Government’s current position however remains to focus resources on enforcing against the most serious offenders.”

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said:

“Not for the first time Scotland is being used as a policy test bed. Ministers in Westminster are right to remain open minded about drink-drive limits and ready to assess evidence from north of the border.

“It would be a poor argument to say cut the drink-drive limit just because others have done it but there is now plenty of data to suggest a change would have a marked improvement in road safety terms. Our own research estimates a cut in the limit could save around 25 lives annually.

“Despite rapid traffic growth the number of people killed in drink-drive accidents has fallen dramatically over time, down some 85% since 1979. This is a much faster rate of decline than for road deaths overall. We must have been doing something right. But the weight of evidence is that we could do more.

“Policy in this area hasn’t moved for half a century but it increasingly falls on opponents of a limit reduction to defend the status quo, rather than asking those who support a cut to keep making their case.”

The RAC Foundation published a report by Professor Richard Allsop into drink-driving just before Christmas 2015 which concluded that a drop in the limit would have a meaningful benefit in terms of casualty reduction.

A debate on reducing the limit was held in the House of Lords on 29 January, led by Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe.



Philip Gomm – Head of External Communications – RAC Foundation

[email protected] | 020 7747 3445 | 07711 776448 | 020 7389 0601 (ISDN)

Notes to editors:

The RAC Foundation is a transport policy and research organisation that explores the economic, mobility, safety and environmental issues relating to roads and their users.

The Foundation publishes independent and authoritative research with which it promotes informed debate and advocates policy in the interest of the responsible motorist. All the Foundation’s work is available at:

You will have seen the debate in parliament a couple of weeks ago on lowering the limit led by Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe.