By Lauren Beehan
The Scottish drinks industry has welcomed the reduction in the drink-driving limit, which will be voted on by the Scottish Parliament today.
Under the new laws, the maximum blood alcohol level for drivers will be reduced from 80mg to 50mg per 100ml, meaning that a single pint of beer could put them over the limit from December 5th.
Representatives from the drinks industry have encouraged customers to be aware of the new limit and to make their plans accordingly.
Neil Williams of the British Beer & Pub Association said: “It is vital that everyone in Scotland knows about the change, as the pub is at the heart of all our Christmas celebrations. Enjoy the pub during the holiday season, but be prepared, such as having a designated driver, so you can get in the party spirit knowing you can have a safe journey home.”
Industry think-tank, the Portman Group, also supports the changes, saying that that drink producers have a role to play in the campaign against drink-driving.
A spokesperson from the group said that producers will focus now on “running responsible drink driving campaigns and education programmes to encourage people to nominate a designated driver and to never drink and drive.”
The Scottish government has launched an awareness campaign to inform drivers of both the change to the limit and the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol.
The Don’t Risk It campaign includes advertisements on television, radio and online videos, as well as interactive social media with games showing the influence of alcohol on reaction speeds.
Advertisements will also be shown in northern England, where the limit remains at 80mg per 100ml, to ensure that drivers who cross the border are aware of the different laws.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who proposed the change, said: “With the approval of Parliament, the new drink drive limit will come into force on December 5, making our roads safer and saving lives.
“We are doing everything we can to make sure everyone is informed about the new lower level.
“A persistent minority of people are still getting behind the wheel after drinking – that is unacceptable, it is putting lives at risk and it must stop. Our advice is simple, the best approach is to have no alcohol at all. Alcohol at any level impairs driving.
“This new law will bring Scotland into line with most of Europe and hopefully reduce drink drive arrests and prosecutions, as we have already seen in the Republic of Ireland, where drivers adjusted their behaviour to take account of the lower limit.”
A similar reduction was implemented in the Republic of Ireland in 2011, where drink-driving convictions fell by 3,000 in the space of two years.
Alcohol is a factor in 1 in 10 fatal road accidents in Scotland, with drink-driving causing over 400 accidents each year.
There were 4,730 people convicted of drink-driving in Scotland between March 2012 and March 2013, the last full year for which statistics are available.
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 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 the 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.”
Chief Superintendent Iain Murray, Head of Roads Policing for Police Scotland warned that people should not drink at all if they intend to get behind the wheel.
He said: “An average of 20 die on Scotland’s roads each year and last year a further 90 were seriously injured and 340 slightly injured as a result of drink driving related collisions.
“The new lower limit will reduce those numbers and the evidence from across Europe where the lower limit applies suggests we will see reductions in drink driving and blood alcohol counts.
“However even at the new limit you are three times more likely to die in a crash than if you had taken no alcohol. It is clear, when it comes to drinking and driving, that the simple ‘the best advice is none’ message is the right one.
“On the lead up to 5 December, police patrols will positively engage with as many road users as possible to provide real-time education to those who may be putting themselves and others at risk, influence behaviour in the future and prevent collisions on Scotland’s roads.”