ALCOHOL LIMIT TO BE REDUCED FOR DRINK DRIVING
In a report published today Sir Peter North recommended that the legal limit for drink driving should be reduced from 80mg in blood to 50mg, almost half the previous limit. The breath limit will be 25, down from 35. This is not as big a reduction as the blood because a different basis for calculation will be used. The reality is that the majority of tests will be done on breath so the reduction is not as big as the headline figures suggest.
This means in effect that anyone who has more than 1 drink before driving is likely to be over the limit BUT as I often say on this blog it is very difficult to assess the level of alcohol in your blood and the only sensible advice is not to drink at all, this is even more valid now. The body of the report says that they considered a zero limit but this was decided against because the gut produces some alcohol and items such as cough mixture may produce a small amount. The limit was set specifically to allow people to consume a small amount of alcohol as part of a religious festival. This above anything else shows how tough the new law intends to be.
NO MORE LEEWAY
The law is also to be toughened up by not allowing any leeway. Previously although the legal limit for drink driving was 35 in breath (equivalent to 80 in blood) no one was charged if their reading was below 40. The North Review recommends that this is removed. The recommended legal limit in breath is to be 25 and the report makes it clear that people should be charged at 25, not allowed an additional tolerance.
The North Review also made other recommendations.
DRINK DRIVE LIMITS NOT REDUCED FURTHER FOR YOUNG DRIVERS, OR TAXI/LORRY DRIVERS
They rejected calls for a lower limit of 20 mg in blood for drivers of HGVs, PSVs or taxis and private hire vehicles but the court will consider this an aggravating factor. They also rejected reducing the limit for young or novice drivers but this is to be reviewed in 5 years time if casualties in that category are not reduced.
NO RIGHT TO INSIST ON A BLOOD TEST FOR LOWER LIMITS OF DRINK DRIVING
Perhaps one of the biggest changes is the removal of the statutory option contained in section 8(2) of the Road Traffic Act 1988. This means that at present if the alcohol in your breath is between 40 and 50 you are allowed to insist on a blood or urine test. It is proposed that this will go. Does this mean the government are now convinced of the accuracy of their machines or just an example of the determination to get tough on drink driving?
HARSHER PENALTIES FOR REFUSING A BREATH TEST
There is bad news too for people who try to avoid the provisions by not providing a breath test. They will automatically go into the High Risk Offenders scheme. Once placed on this scheme drivers will not be able to get their licence back without first being assessed by a Department for Transport-approved doctor.
PERMANENT BANS FOR REPEAT OFFENDERS
Repeat offenders also face having their vehicle seized and forfeited and the courts are to be encouraged to impose permanent bans for repeat offenders.
POLICE NO LONGER NEED REASONABLE GROUNDS TO SUSPECT DRINK DRIVING
Currently police officers have to have reasonable grounds to suspect that someone has alcohol in their body, this is to go and police will have a general power to ask anyone to co operate with a preliminary breath test. Police will also be able to insist on a breath test at the police station without a preliminary (roadside) test.
The full report is available here – //northreview.independent.gov.uk/report
What do you think? Too harsh or not harsh enough?
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