Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Drinking and driving: choosing the legal limits.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987; 295 doi: (Published 05 December 1987) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987;295:1458
  1. J A Dunbar,
  2. A Penttila,
  3. J Pikkarainen
  1. University Department of Forensic Medicine, Royal Infirmary, Dundee.


    The legal limit for drinking and driving in Britain is 80 mg/dl (17.4 mmol/l) of alcohol in the blood. This was chosen 20 years ago on the basis of studies that have recently been reanalysed. Changes in public opinion, the results of recent research, and the evaluation of other countermeasures, such as random breath testing, show that there are good grounds for revising the legal limit downwards. It is suggested that the legal limit should be reduced from 80 mg/dl to 50 mg/dl (10.9 mmol/l) and random breath testing introduced as in most Nordic countries. A zero limit is proposed for learner and first year drivers, who are likely to have accidents even with low concentrations of alcohol in their blood.