One of the consistently dissapointing things about the Tories is the attitude towards alchohol. Cameron and Co have thoroughly bought into the Daily Mail “Binge Britain” hysteria. Many will say that this means that Britain is still Governed by Authoratarians and Cameron’s no better than Labour. These people are of course idiots.
However criticism where criticism’s due. The Con-Lib plan to drop the blood alchohol level from 80mg/L to 50mg is stupid. Britain has the safest roads in Europe despite being one of the booziest nations. This is because Briain has (believe it or not) decent roads, a regime of car inspections which takes many unsafe vehicles off the road, a high standard of driving (drive in Spain, then disagree…), and few people drink and drive. In the 60’s when accident rates were looked at, alcohol consumption played less of a part than Car mechanical safety, road standards, and driver experience. Clearly DRUNK driving is stupid, but there are few people who do that.
The law is reasonable at the moment. It is possible to have a glass of wine or two with a meal, and drive home. You are not remotely drunk, and if you’re sensible, you’re not posing a risk to anyone. If you’ve been out the night before, 80mg allows hungover people (who’re not taking the piss) to get to work. It is not the 50-80mg/l drivers who are causing the crashes. It’s people like this.
…the high levels of alcohol and sedatives could have impaired her driving ability, judgement and perception. Mrs Morley had 256 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood…
COULD have imparied her driving ability? Someone who gets into a car blotto is not going to be deterred by a lower limit. And it is the seriously drunk driver who causes crashes, not the ‘one glass of wine with a meal’ driver.
I am aware that ANY level of alcohol impairs driving performance, but this has to be put in perspective. Tiredness is FAR more dangerous than driving with a blood alchohol of 80mg/l. How many of us have driven after a red-eye flight? How many of us still use a Mobile occasionally when driving? And 80mg of Alchohol is less than the difference in safety than that between a good driver and a bad one: A middle-aged person in a well maintained car, obeying the speed limit with 80mg/l of alcohol in their blood is safer than an 18 year-old stone cold sober, who’s got 3 weeks of driving experience and is showing off to his mates. Frankly I’d rather have George Best on the road with me than anyone in a BMW.
Statistics say that “alcohol is a factor” in just 20-30% of Road Traffic incidents. (if anyone can point me at some real data, rather than paragraphs from alcohol prohibitionist charities, I would be grateful). Given that the police breathalyse EVERYONE and record alcohol as a factor when there is ANY alcohol present, I suspect the real figure is lower: a Tiny percentage of Drunk Drivers are causing a disproportionate number of accidents, and the majority of reasonable drives who may have had a lunchtime pint have accidents at a similar rate to everyone else.
Driving is risky; it cannot be made totally safe. But part of the reason for the success of the British anti drink-drive laws in reducing the social acceptability of drink driving, not in reducing the blood alcohol of drink drivers. And part of this is the fact that the system has broad support. And the support stems from the fact that the draconian enforcement (police waiting outside pubs armed with breathalysers), and severe punishment, is allied to a reasonable “allowance” for a pint on the way home or having a bit in the tank on the drive to work in the morning after.
The risk of dropping the drink drive level to 50mg/l will be that this broad consent is lost. Before the law is made harsher, I would like to see evidence that people falling into the 50-80mg/l range are causing a lot of accidents. I suspect that MOST of the drink related accidents are in the 160mg/l plus range: ie people who have already ignored the existing law, and will ignore the new one. Focus on the people disobeying the existing law. Don’t try to catch those who broadly agree with the legislation by changing the goal-posts, and don’t pretend that someone with 51mg/l blood alchohol is as bad as someone with 160 mg, which is what purse-lipped “road safety campaigners” seem to want.
The Conservatives are also worryingly similar to Labour on the Binge-drinking hysteria and are proposing the profoundly stupid minimum unit price for alcohol. I would like to see some research which puts the ludicrous 21 unit/week limit to the test before punishing sensible drinkers. But a reasonable government which doesn’t seek to blame SOMEONE (else) for society’s ills? Does ANY democracy have one?
Cameron & Co are profoundly wrong on Alcohol. But they were profoundly wrong before the election. Please don’t say they’re breaking any promises, nor are they as bad (this issue aside) as the last lot.