Public calls for lower drink drive limit as Lords debate road safety law

Paralympian Simon Richardson MBE joins campaign to urge government to take action to prevent shattered lives

29 January 2016: Research released today shows an overwhelming majority (77%) of the British public support lowering the drink drive legal limit, which would bring England and Wales in line with Scotland and the rest of the EU. The polling data, from the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, is published the same day the House of Lords will debate a Private Members Bill to lower the legal limit.

The drink drive limit is expressed as the number of milligrams (mg) of alcohol in 100ml of blood. In England and Wales the current limit stands at 80mg of alcohol/100ml of blood, which is the highest legal limit in Europe with the exception of Malta.

Scotland lowered its drink-driving limit to 50mg/100ml in 2014 and after just three months, alcohol related road traffic offences went down 17%. Today the House of Lords will debate lowering the limit in England and Wales to 50mg/100ml, as a bill sponsored by Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe receives its second reading.

Research suggests that lowering the limit to 50mg/100ml would save over a hundred lives a year[1], and that £300 million would be saved in costs to the emergency services and hospitals[2].

The UK public have consistently supported calls for a lower drink drive limit [3] and the results of an opinion poll of 5,000 respondents released today show that 77% people favour a 50mg/100ml limit to bring England and Wales in line with Scotland and the rest of the EU.

Also supporting the call for the limit to be lowered is Simon Richardson MBE, a double-Gold and Silver Medal-winning cyclist at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games, who has twice been struck by drunk drivers, and has retired from the sport as a result. Urging the House of Lords to support the bill in the chamber today, Mr Richardson said:

In 2011 a drink driver almost killed me. 240 other people weren’t so ‘lucky’. I lived, but my health was destroyed, as well as my dreams of competing at the London 2012 paralympic games. As a previous Paralympic twin gold medal winner and cycling world record holder I should have been part of the 2012 success story. My daily pain does not register as one of the annual drink drive fatality statistics that has refused to fall since 2010.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said:

Studies consistently show that reducing the drink driving limit clearly reduces the risk of road traffic collisions by changing the behaviour of those likely to drink and drive. The North Review of drink driving law, NICE, the World Health Organisation and countless others recommend we lower the limit to 50mg/100ml, and it is now time that Parliament votes to lower it.

Gary Rae, campaigns director for Brake, the road safety charity, said in support of the bill:

Brake campaigns for a zero drink driving limit. The call by the AHA to reduce the limit from 80 to 50mg/100ml is a useful and welcome step towards achieving our ambition. One in seven UK road deaths result from crashes where the driver was over the drink-drive limit.

Nicholas Lyes, Public Affairs Manager for the RAC, said:

The 2015 RAC Report on Motoring[4] shows that there is support from motorists for a lower drink drive limit. More than half of motorists think the blood-alcohol limit should be reduced at least to 50mg/100ml from the current 80mg/100ml level. Younger drivers are more likely to drink-drive with 26% of those between 17 and 24 thinking or knowing they have done so in the past year. We welcome the debate that Lord Brooke’s Bill brings and urge Government to listen to motorist opinion, consider carefully what is happening in Scotland and reduce the drink drive limit.

Note to editors

The Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA) is a group of 45 organisations including the Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of GPs, British Medical Association, Alcohol Concern and the Institute of Alcohol Studies. The AHA works together to:

  • Highlight the rising levels of alcohol-related health harm
  • Propose evidence-based solutions to reduce this harm
  • Influence decision makers to take positive action to address the damage caused by alcohol misuse

For further information contact Matt Chorley, Policy and Communications Officer for the Alcohol Health Alliance, at [email protected] or on 0203 075 1726.

About the survey

The Alcohol Health Alliance commissioned Bluegrass Research, an independent research and polling organisation, to survey the British public at the end of 2015 on their attitudes to alcohol and drink driving. 4869 respondents, across all four nations of the UK, answered an online survey, and the results were weighted by age, gender, socio-economic class and geography to be representative of the UK as a whole.

On drink driving, the question posed to respondents was: Scotland recently reduced the amount of alcohol drivers are legally allowed to drink, bringing Scottish drink driving limits in line with nearly all other European countries. To what extent would you support or object to reduced drink driving limits being introduced in the rest of the UK?

The breakdown of responses was as follows:

  • Strongly support: 2852 (58.58%)
  • Support to some extent: 878 (18.02%)
  • Neutral: 793 (16.29%)
  • Object to some extent: 222 (4.56%)
  • Strongly object: 124 (2.54%)
  • Overall support: 3730 (76.61%)
  • Overall object: 346 (7.10%)

Statistics on drink driving

  • The latest available figures show that in 2013 there were 240 deaths and 8,270 injuries due to drink driving accidents
  • England, Wales and Northern Ireland have the highest drink drive limit in Europe with the exception of Malta
  • Reducing the legal Blood Alcohol Content limit to 50mg alcohol/100ml blood would save over 100 lives a year
  • Enforcement is part of the solution, but cuts to police numbers are making this more difficult. Reducing the drink drive limit would not only have a greater impact on fatalities, but would save £300 million each year in costs to emergency services
  • There is overwhelming public support for lowering the legal drink drive limit – our recent poll showed 77% of people favoured a 50mg limit
  • At the current limit of 80mg, drivers are six times more likely to die in a road traffic accident than those who have not drunk alcohol
  • Self-reported drink driving appears to be on the rise: a 2015 survey found one third of drivers who drink regularly drive whilst over the limit
[1] Sir Peter North CBE QC, Report of the Review of Drink and Drug Driving Law, 2010 (

[2] Estimates of savings by the Local Government Association in 2005 (

[3] See, for example, December 2015 statistics from the Institute of Advanced Motoring, showing 70% public support ( and December 2014 polling from BRAKE, which found support at 74% (

[4] RAC, RAC Report on Motoring 2015 (