New Drink Driving Laws in Scotland

On the 18th November this year the Scottish Parliament voted unanimously to reduce the legal amount of alcohol allowed when driving from 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. Today at 00.01 this new law comes into force and Police Scotland along with road safety charity Brake is calling on drivers to avoid alcohol altogether when out in their cars. These new laws will see Scotland fall into line with most other European countries including the Republic of Ireland. In England the UK Government knocked back plans to reduce the legal limit, making them along with Wales and Malta the only three countries in Europe with a figure above 50mg. In Northern Ireland the limit is also 80mg although they are planning on bringing in the same laws as Scotland in 2015.

As Police Scotland launch their annual drink and drug driving enforcement campaign, road safety charity Brake is calling on drivers not to touch even a drop of alcohol if they plan to drive. Their campaign called 'not a drop, not a drag' is asking drivers to avoid alcohol altogether if driving during the festive season. The campaign comes as figures from 2012 showed that 230 people were killed and 1,210 were seriously injured by someone who was over the legal limit of alcohol. It has also been estimated that 65 deaths were caused by drivers who were just under the legal limit, proving that the best way is to stay away alcohol altogether if you plan to drive.

The Scottish Governments Drink Driving Campaign Advert - Blue Light

Scottish Justice Secretary Michael Matheson wholeheartedly supports the new laws and has spent the last week visiting cities North and South of the border to highlight the new campaign. Speaking of the new laws Mr Matheson said: “This will bring Scotland into line with most of Europe. The evidence from the Republic of Ireland which has brought in the same lower limit suggests we will see convictions go down, reductions in drink driving and lower blood alcohol counts.

Mr Matheson also advised drivers to avoid alcohol altogether saying: When it comes to drinking and driving our advice is simple, it's just not worth it. Don't put lives at risk, the best approach is to have no alcohol at all."

The new laws come into effect today and the campaign to raise awareness of drink driving will begin with the help of local media, Police Scotland and the Scottish Government. There be events taking place at airports, train stations and supermarkets across the country. The Scottish Government will also be working with service stations who will display information about the new laws to their customers, and electronic road signs have also be put up to remind drivers of the law.

Why Change the Law Now?

The first laws on drink driving were introduced in 1967 and have not changed since then. The number of accidents has reduced since the laws on drink driving were first introduced but as we have seen hundreds of people are still being killed by drink driving every year. The Scottish Government has devolved powers and was able to change the law without backing from Westminster. They are bringing in the new laws now to align with the rest of Europe who have seen the number accidents fall since reducing the legal limit.

Why not reduce the Limit to Zero?

The new laws on drink driving have been brought in to try and stop drivers drinking altogether. The new amount of 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood will mean if you drink a pint of lager or a large glass of wine you could be over the limit. The advice is to not drink at all if you are unsure about units and what equates to 50mg of alcohol.

Road safety charity Brake have said that 20mg is as close to an absolute ban as you can get without accidentally penalising those with trace element of alcohol in their bloodstream. Some countries though such as the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia have introduced a zero-tolerance policy on drink driving. Another reason that Scotland haven't adopted a complete ban is that alcohol can affect people in different ways, depending on their size, weight, age, medical history, what they have been drinking, and what they have had eat. People process alcohol at varying speeds meaning that many people won't realise they still have alcohol in their blood the following day. Some alcohol is even found in food products which in affect if the policy was zero would mean people with any trace at all would be penalised.

So the warning to drivers is simply to stay away from alcohol altogether if you plan to drive. The festive season is one of the most dangerous times for drink driving accidents, it is hoped these new laws have come in just in time to save lives, and eradicate drink driving accidents in Scotland altogether. So as you head out this weekend for some festive fun – remember if your drinking leave the car at home, and if you have to drive – avoid alcohol altogether.

By Jenna Niblock