It was reported yesterday that the drink drive legal limit is to be reduced to 50mg% from 80mg%, which brings Scotland into alignment with the majority of countries in Europe. Personally I’m in favour of 0mg% being the limit which a few countries in Europe already have but having said that changing the drink drive limit should always be based on firm research in depth which is clear and based on empirical evidence which shows numbers of lives which will be saved.
Of course things are never as straightforward as they seem. Police regularly test drivers for alcohol levels when they have been stopped for something else. They even do it on spec later in the evenings at weekends. Good idea I hear you say. For whom? Certainly not the people who are driving without any alcohol in their system but are still forced to take the test.
Now I am not a supporter of this “deterrence” by the police. They use the same tactics in other ways where they can arrest people on the basis that they may have gone on to do something illegal. If you are being threatened by someone and you go to the police they will say they can do nothing because no crime has been committed which means that you’ll have to put up with it until that someone thumps you in full view of a number of impeccable witnesses. Good system.
Anyway, you might want to cast an eye on the government statistics on drink driving casualties and convictions here. You’ll see that the numbers have fallen dramatically over the years although there have been ups and downs.
The figures show that the Scottish statistics are below the 10% of population level, which in itself needs more investigation. The message coming from the Scottish Government is that the Scots drink way more than the rest of the UK and beyond. Do these figures mean that although we drink more we don’t get in our cars and drive?
There are two further significant blips in the data. Firstly the number of female convictions has grown and continues to grow and secondly 52% of convicted drink drivers are under 33 and predominantly in the 20-24 age group according to the Institute of Alcohol Studies.
The number of deaths in Scotland due to drink driving is 30 although these deaths include passengers. 30 is again under the normal Scottish population ratio of 10% of the UK as a whole. Will the new limit reduce deaths? You would like to think that it would. However, it’s not a given and whilst 30 is a lot of dead people it’s a very small number statistically making it more and more difficult to reduce.
There is one further issue to consider. Drugs. Whilst statistics do not seem to be available as yet it also seems obvious that drug driving related accidents also contribute to both the alcohol related driving accidents and non-alcohol related driving accidents.
The Scottish Government don’t have a good track record of introducing increased restrictions such as the ban of smoking in public places. The claims that were made following the introduction of the ban were not confirmed by the NHS statistics. The ludicrous claims for “second hand” cigarette smoke are baseless. Have you known anyone at all or anyone who knows of anyone who has died of second hand cigarette smoke inhalation? No.
All governments seem to have only two tools when dealing with issues. Either they try to heavily tax the activity they want to stop and/or they fine and convict people. Hardly the work of intelligent and gifted politicians?
Cultural change, although difficult to achieve in the short term, is the best route to changing behaviour. Alcohol abuse and drink and drug driving will only be effectively tackled through culture change. Doing anything else is sadly only a side show.