Scotland's New Tougher Drink-Driving Law: Be Aware!

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Scotland has very recently introduced a reduced drink-driving limit, and now leads the way in the UK with tougher drink-drive laws.

Scottish Police breath-testing: new reduced alcohol limits

The Scottish Parliament last month unanimously approved measures to reduce the legal limit from the previous UK-wide 80mg - which is the highest in Europe - down to 50mg per 100ml of blood, with the change coming into force from 5th December. 

This means that a pint of beer or a glass of wine could put you over the alcohol limit.  Scottish Police say that drivers breath-tested and found to be over the limit will receive a 20 year criminal record.  The likelihood of being caught is now greater than ever before. It’s estimated that Police Scotland stop over 80,000 vehicles each month, with around 20,000 offences detected every month.1

David Barton, a motoring law specialist, commented, “People currently try to calculate what is safe to drink and get it wrong . . .a 50mg limit means no one can afford to take a drink, but it avoids the possibility of something like medication causing a reading.” 2

Michael Matheson, the Justice Secretary, stated that cutting the amount of alcohol motorists are allowed to have in their blood will save lives.  He said, "Alcohol at any level will impair your ability to drive, even at the new limit you are three times more likely to die in a crash than with no alcohol in your system.

"This will bring Scotland into line with most of Europe. The evidence from the Republic of Ireland which has brought in the same lower limit suggests we will see convictions go down, reductions in drink-driving and lower blood alcohol counts."

He added, "We are leading the way across the UK, the new limit has backing from experts, road safety campaigners and the majority of the public north and south of the border. When it comes to drinking and driving our advice is simple, it's just not worth it. Don't put lives at risk, the best approach is to have no alcohol at all." 3

In order to raise motorists’ awareness of the new limit, an advertising campaign is underway and electronic signs warning drivers of the change can be seen on roads and at service stations in border areas.  There are also events being held at supermarkets, airports and major railway stations like Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley.

Will the rest of the UK follow suit and also introduce a tougher drink-driving policy?

Various surveys show that the majority of people would welcome the tough approach to drink-driving, for example:

  • An online survey by Motorpoint found that 67% of over 1,700 motorists questioned are in favour of a zero-tolerance approach. 2
  • The Institute of Advanced Motorists published research in November which showed over two-thirds (68%) of people would like to see the lower drink-drive limit brought in in England and Wales.3

Michael McDonnell, director of Road Safety Scotland, said, "It's almost 50 years since the current limit was introduced and that we still lose an average of 20 lives a year in Scotland is a disgrace. Evidence from across the world demonstrates that the best results in tackling drink-driving are achieved by lowering the limit, or increasing enforcement, or both.

"We know too that a combination of high-profile enforcement, coupled with a heavyweight media campaign, is the most efficient use of resources, and we are working closely with Police Scotland and other partners to ensure that people know about the change to the limit and have no excuse.

"It's not about catching more drink-drivers, but about preventing people from doing it in the first place. Ultimately, most of us have too much to lose, so it's just not worth the risk." 3

For more advice, see the Scottish Government’s Safer Scotland website feature, 'Drink-driving: the law' 1

and watch Police Scotland’s video 4



2 The Telegraph, Telegraph Cars, Saturday, December 6th, 2014, p M5.

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