Scotland launches consultation on lowering drink driving limit

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 07 September 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e6053
  1. Bryan Christie
  1. 1Edinburgh

Scotland is set to become the first UK country to lower the drink driving limit and bring it into line with most major European countries.

The Scottish government has launched a consultation on plans to lower the limit from the present 80 mg of alcohol per 100 mL of blood (17.4 mmol/L) to 50 mg/100 mL, with equivalent reductions in breath and urine limits. It is estimated that this could save between three and 17 lives a year and prevent many more non-fatal crashes.

The drink driving limit has remained unchanged in the United Kingdom since it was introduced in 1966 and is currently among the highest in the world, despite lobbying by the BMA and road safety campaigners for a reduction.

The move is supported by most of the political parties in Scotland. If it is backed in the consultation, which closes at the end of November, the Scottish government is expected to move quickly to introduce the change. It was given control over this policy area through the 2012 Scotland Act.

The proposed reduction has been welcomed by doctors in Scotland. George Fernie, a member of the BMA’s Scottish council and a police surgeon, said, “The BMA has been lobbying for a reduction in the drink driving limit for some time and, with the devolution of this power to the Scottish parliament, is pleased to see some progress on this important issue.”

Fernie said that a reduction in the current limit was in line with the best available evidence on the effects of alcohol on driving. “We believe that such a move will help prevent deaths and reduce the number of lives ruined by drink driving,” he added.

Scotland’s justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill, criticised the UK government for failing to act on the issue when he launched the consultation. He said that Scotland was only able to act alone now because of new powers under the Scotland Act.

He added: “While drink driving is now rightly recognised by the vast majority of motorists as dangerous and reckless, too many drivers still ignore the warnings and put lives at risk by drinking and driving. The consequences can be devastating for victims, their families, and our communities.”

Drink driving alcohol limits across Europe

0 mg/100 mL
  • Czech Republic

  • Estonia

  • Hungary

  • Romania

  • Slovakia

20 mg/100 mL
  • Greece

  • Poland

  • Sweden

40 mg/100 mL
  • Lithuania

50 mg/100 mL
  • Austria

  • Belgium

  • Bulgaria

  • Cyprus

  • Denmark

  • Finland

  • France

  • Germany

  • Ireland

  • Italy

  • Latvia

  • Luxembourg

  • Netherlands

  • Portugal

  • Slovenia

  • Spain

80 mg/100 mL
  • Malta

  • United Kingdom


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e6053