Go easy on drivers drunk at wheel says motoring group

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A LEADING motoring organisation today urged more lenient sentences for those breaking drink-drive laws after new lower limits are introduced.

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) claimed plans to reduce the drink-drive limit in Scotland could mean less public support for enforcement measures.

Responsibility for setting drink-drive limits is being devolved from Westminster to Holyrood and the Scottish Government proposes to lower the legal threshold from 80mg to 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. The move, which could take effect as early as next year, would put some drivers over the limit after one glass of wine or pint of strong lager.

The move has been generally supported by road safety campaigners.

But Neil Greig, IAM director of policy, said it may be hard to justify tough penalties, including a mandatory 12-month ban on driving and possible seizure of a vehicle, in cases where there was no demonstrable effect on a motorist’s performance.

He said: “Should a driver who is stopped after taking one glass of wine and who has not caused any problem on the road face a 12-month ban, a very large fine, loss of job, seven years of huge insurance premiums and even the possibility of forfeiture of their car?

“This is not an easy question to answer but the IAM believes it must be addressed by the legislators and the enforcement agencies.

“In many parts of Europe a lower limit has been introduced with a lower fine and shorter bans to address this very point.”

He said the authorities did not know how many motorists currently drove with alcohol levels above 50mg but below 80mg, what their involvement in crashes was or what resources would be required to enforce the lower limit.

The Scottish Government had originally asked for powers over sentencing to be devolved to Holyrood, along with the power to set the drink-drive limit. However, while the latter was devolved in the recent Scotland Act, the UK Government retained sentencing powers.

A Scottish Government spokesman said reducing the drink-driving limit would save lives. “The majority of Scots recognise drink-driving is dangerous and deplorable in our society, but there are still too many people dying every year on our roads as a result of drivers being over the limit.

“All the evidence shows alcohol-related road deaths drop dramatically where the limit has been reduced. Our proposed changes will mean drink-drivers are left with no excuses.”

iswanson@edinburghnews.com