Lowering of legal drink-drive limit 'to save lives' urged

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The legal drink-drive limit should be lowered in England and Wales to cut alcohol-related accidents, councils and fire authorities have urged.

The Local Government Association (LGA) and all fire and rescue authorities in England and Wales are calling for the current limit to be lowered from 80mg to 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

The move could save 170 lives in the first year, according to the LGA.

The government said UK roads were "amongst the safest in the world".

The Scottish government reduced its legal limit for drivers to 50mg in December 2014.

Northern Ireland will also soon drop its limit to the same level, and even lower for professional and learner drivers.

But last year, the government said there were no plans to lower the drink-drive limit in England and Wales to bring it in line with Scotland.

The LGA said it was estimated that lowering the limit in England and Wales could save up to 170 lives in the first year, rising to more than 300 lives in the sixth year.

A lower limit could also save £300m annually by reducing the number of 999 responses and hospital admissions, the LGA said.

It cited provisional government figures showing that reported "serious" drink-drive accidents between 2014 and 2015 in Britain had risen from 880 to 980, an increase of 11%.

Total reported drink-drive accidents had increased by 2% from 5,620 to 5,740.

The same figures showed the number of people seriously injured in reported drink-drive accidents between 2014 and 2015 had risen from 1,070 to 1,170, an increase of 9%.

Between 2010 and 2015 the number of people killed in reported drink-drive accidents has remained between 220 and 240 a year.

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Image caption,
The current limit in England and Wales is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood

Simon Blackburn, chairman of the LGA's Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said the fact that England and Wales would soon have the highest drink-drive limit in Europe "is not sending the right message to motorists".

He said: "The government should be leading by example by toughening up drink-drive laws in line with other European countries which will make roads safer and save lives.

"A lower alcohol limit would help to deter motorists from drinking at all before getting behind the wheel and encourage them to have 'none for the road'."

The Department for Transport spokesman said the government believed that rigorous enforcement and severe penalties for drink driving were a more effective deterrent than changing the drink-drive limit.

He said: "Those over the current drink driving limit cause a disproportionate amount of harm. These are the people we need to focus our efforts and resources upon.

"Our roads continue to be amongst the safest in the world because we crack down on those who break the law."

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