The previous Government appointed Sir Peter North in December 2009 to conduct an independent review of the law on drink and drug driving in Great Britain. His report was published in June 2010 and we undertook an inquiry into his most high-profile recommendations.
While we agree that medical and statistical evidence supports a reduction in the current drink drive limit of 80mg alcohol per 100ml blood, we note that currently 2% of drivers killed in road accidents have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) between 50mg/100ml and 80mg/100ml, while 18% have a BAC greater than 80mg. We recommend that the police should have an additional power to enable preliminary breath tests to be required and administered in the course of a designated drink drive enforcement operation.
We are concerned that a reduction in the limit to 50mg/100ml would send out a mixed message with the Government's official advice to not drink and drive at all, particularly in light of the strong evidence of public uncertainty about what constitutes a "legal drink". In the long term, we believe that the Government should aim for an "effectively zero" limit of 20mg/100ml but we acknowledge that is too great a step at this stage. Instead of an "interim" reduction to 50mg/100ml, the Government should concentrate on working with individual police forces to achieve a stricter enforcement of the current limit and beginning a public education campaign to help achieve public acceptance of a 20mg/100ml limit.
We support the retention of the current minimum penalty of 12-month mandatory disqualification.
The Government should adopt a five-year strategy to tackle drug driving, so that it is as important a road safety priority as combating drink driving. This should include a high-profile advertising campaign, in particular on the consequences of being caught and convicted of the crime.
The police currently lack the ability to enforce drug driving legislation effectively, which accounts for the low conviction rate. We welcome the Government's commitment to install drug screening devices in every police station by 2012; the medium-term aim should be to develop and type-approve a drug screening device for use at the roadside.
Unlike with drink driving, there is no objective test for impaired driving due to drugs, no legal definition of impairment in the Road Traffic Act, and no offence of driving in breach of prescribed limits of specific drugs. We favour the adoption of a "zero-tolerance" offence for illegal drugs which are known to impair driving, which are widely misused, including among drivers, and which represent a substantial part of the drug driving problem.