Neil Greig: Drink policy in driving seat

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I welcome the consultation exercise on drinking and driving because it allows the whole issue of penalties, enforcement and sentencing to be 
debated in public.

There is widespread support for a reduced drink drive limit. A recent Institutute of Advanced Motorists survey found 66 per cent of motorists want to see the limit reduced, while 29 per cent think it should stay the same.

I support reducing the limit because it sends a very strong message that drinking and driving is dangerous, antisocial and will not be tolerated in Scotland.

Drinking at the current drink drive limit slows reactions times by 13 per cent. The British Medical Association calculates that drivers at the current alcohol limit are ten times more likely to crash than a sober driver but only twice as likely at the 50mg limit.

This 50mg limit is the standard across Western Europe but we have to be careful drawing too many lessons from abroad. For example, drink driving accounts for one in nine deaths on the road in Scotland but in Finland it is one in four.

Most deaths and serious injuries are caused by drivers several times over the limit, suggesting the real problem is habitual drinkers. The Scottish Government must ensure that police have the extra resources needed to enforce the new limit.

Drink driving is a symptom of the Scottish relationship with alcohol and, along with minimum pricing, we now have clear policies to try to change deep-seated attitudes to drink.

Only time will tell if Scotland is ready to take on this message.

Neil Greig is director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists