Brake’s controversial drink driving solutions: do you agree?

Last year 250 people were killed and 1,230 seriously injured in the UK by drivers over the drink drive limit.

These deaths might have been avoided if the drivers involved were sober.

The charity, Brake, whose mission is to prevent the 5 deaths that happen everyday on British roads, believe that sweeping reforms are needed to save lives.

Alarming complacency

Brake says it’s shocked by the discovery that almost a third of young British drivers (29%) are willing to drink and drive.

Worryingly, over half said they would risk driving under the influence after a heavy night, a proportion which has actually increased over the last four years.

One in eight (12%) of young drivers thinking that they can drink 3 units or more and still drive without creating danger, despite the fact that just one unit of alcohol affects driving ability.

These were the most significant findings in the survey undertaken by the charity and Direct Line insurers.

They interviewed 390 people aged 17-24 across the UK in an attempt to understand the attitudes behind drink driving.

This age group was targeted as young people are the most likely to fail a breath test after a car accident.

Controversial solutions

Brake believes that the only solution is to adopt a year-round zero tolerance approach to drink driving, and have outlined three key reforms they want to see made.

Slashing the drink drive limit

At the moment the UK has the highest drink drive limit in Europe, at 80mg per 100ml of blood.

Research undertaken by the University of California at San Diego showed that even drivers with 0.01% of alcohol in their blood have noticeably more dangerous accidents than drivers who are totally sober.

As a result the road safety charity wants to see the limit reduced to 20mg/100ml.

This would bring it into line with the new limit for novice drivers in Northern Ireland.

Tougher enforcement

Brake are campaigning for more resources to be spent on enforcing drink driving laws.

They particularly want to see an increase in police powers to let them undertake random, targeted and blanket testing, making it harder for drink drivers to evade the law.

Greater awareness

The charity also believes that there should be compulsory education for teenagers about the facts and dangers of drink driving, accompanied by media campaigns.

But could this cause more problems?

These all sound very worthwhile on paper, but there are significant drawbacks to Brake’s ideas, ones that could have far-reaching consequences for British society.

Who’s going to pay?

Brake’s proposals, particularly the second and third, would require a big increase in spending.

The costs of increased testing would either need to be borne by already struggling council tax payers or from resources diverted from elsewhere in police budgets.

Similarly, increasing the amount of money spent on education might require cuts elsewhere.

Potential to cause social unrest?

Introducing random and blanket testing is Brake’s most controversial idea.

Imagining the traffic chaos that might be caused by blanket testing on busy roads, it’s easy to see why this could be deeply unpopular with the public.

Randomly stopping drivers who are giving no reason to suspect that they are drink driving, has echoes of the incredibly divisive ‘stop and search’ policies.

Over the last thirty years, this police tactic has been seen as unfairly targeting ethnic minorities and has been blamed for poisoning relationships between some communities and the police.

Experts believe that the tensions inflamed by these policies have fed into inner-city riots and unrest.

Plus, randomly stopping drivers without a good reason could well be infringing their human rights, following test cases in the European Courts in recent years.

No easy answers

What do you think? Would you support Brake’s suggestions, and be happy to support them even if it meant higher taxes and being pulled over on occasion?  We would love to hear your comments – post them below.

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Andrew Kirkley
Latest posts by Andrew Kirkley (see all)
  • 29th December 2011

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