Motorists preparing for the party season have another headache to think about

Wednesday, December 3, 2014 - 14:58
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Changes in drink driving limits between England and Scotland have got people confused

A little drop never does you any harm, so the saying goes, but rather like regional Independence, where we now stand on drink drive laws is all over the place argues Martin Wedge, managing director of OVL

It is exactly 50 years since the first Christmas drink drive campaigns hit our TV screens.

This week, in a bid to avoid drivers hitting their own windscreens, motorists preparing for the party season will have another headache to think about – and that is before they even have a drink!

From 5th December Scottish police can breathalyse motorists on the new lower limits for drink driving north of the border where the legal maximum is now 50mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood, as opposed to the 80mg, which remains the law in England and Wales.

Despite the timing, we cannot blame the Holyrood for this change, as it wanted to make these changes two years ago. Instead, we should look harder at Westminster because the reduction brings Scotland into line with Northern Ireland and most of Europe, while the limit in England and Wales remains at 80mg. It also means drivers in Scotland could be breaking the law if they have consumed a small glass of wine or single pint of beer.

All well and good to see limits heading south – but what about the seasoned fleet drivers – those with national accounts north and south of the border who may fancy a tipple with the tinsel this Christmas?

Well my advice to you is to have a dry Christmas until you are safely at home, or let the train take the strain in order to avoid the car if you are planning to party.

Anybody with any sense on these issues would either introduce a blanket drink drive ban or make sure that there is joined up thinking on joined up journeys – namely all parts of the UK have the same lower limit. Now we have a ridiculous blurred mismatch of limits, drivers who make frequent journeys into Scotland or vice-versa no longer know where they are when it comes to having a wee dram. Indeed, that wee-dram would probably put them over the limit in Scotland, whereas, ironically, it may be fine in England, as the law stands.

It may be that Scotland, long stereotyped as a nation of people who like a drink, is trying to ‘nudge’ its drivers legislatively as one in 10 deaths on the roads north of the border was drink-related.

Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill said it wanted to introduce the lower limit two years ago, but Westminster procrastination delayed the decision until now. He also said that there was an appetite for change south of the border as well.

This is no simply ‘bah humbug’ from Holyrood, but, like the powers for the regions, this issue has to be sorted out as roads don’t stop at the borders and are no respecters of geographical or legal boundaries

Otherwise, when a driver is breathalysed and gives an excuse that he had no idea where he was, it may not be the drink talking.

Martin Wedge is Managing Director at OVL Group, a specialist car leasing firm.

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