Government says no to lowering drink driving limit in UKBMJ 2011; 342 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d1877 (Published 23 March 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d1877
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The UK government's decision against lowering the legal drink-driving
limit for alcohol (1) is consistent with its attitude to speed cameras:
speed cameras may now be scrapped at the discretion of local authorities,
despite evidence of their effectiveness (2). Both decisions are in accord
with assertions that "the war against the motorist" is dead - and of
course such proposals save a few quid in the costs of law-enforcement.
However, the flipside will be a continuing high rate of casualties:
the resulting costs of trauma care are hardly a way to save money.
In fact, the economic downturn creates another twist: reduction in
road casualties as the cost of driving becomes too expensive for many,
particularly the new unexmployed. This trend is exacerbated by
uncertainties about fuel supplies - a point well-illustrated by the crises
of the 1970s. Those led to reduction of the maximum speed-limit to 50 mph
(3) and steep drops in casualties - not surprizing given the fourth-power
relationship between speed of collision and severity of injury (4).
Unfortunately, the maximum speed-limit was subsequently raised again to 70
mph in the stampede to expunge evidence of the economic depression.
This government might do well to ponder such issues in the context of
their tacit Thatcherite attitudes to motoring. There is nothing wrong in
not owning a car and, for the many who do own a car, there is nothing
wrong in reducing the number and speed of journeys by car. However, this
lesson requires a willingness to learn from the past.
(1) Mayer S. Government says no to lowering drink driving limit in
UK. BMJ 2011;342:d1877
(2) Mooney H. Speed cameras "do a good job" in reducing road deaths
and injuries. BMJ 2010;341:c5489
(3) Harrison I. Travel 1900-2000. London: Harper-Collins. 2000
(4) Finch DJ, Kompfner P, Lockwood CR, Maycock G. Speed, speed limits
and accidents. Project Report 58. Crowthorne: TRL. 1994
Competing interests: No competing interests