Doctors call for English drink-drive limit to be cut to equivalent of a small drink

<span>The recommendation to lower the drink-drive limit is one of a number of alcohol-related proposals from the BMA.</span><span>Photograph: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images</span>
The recommendation to lower the drink-drive limit is one of a number of alcohol-related proposals from the BMA.Photograph: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images

Doctors have called for England’s drink-driving limit to be reduced to the equivalent of a small glass of wine or beer, in a proposal supported by a number of medical and road safety organisations.

England’s legal limit for getting safely behind the wheel is one of the highest in Europe at 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, a law established in 1967.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said it would lobby the next government to reduce the limit by nearly half for most people, to 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, or 0.05%, and to 20mg for new and commercial drivers.

Alcohol and drug-related deaths were at a record high in 2021 and 2022, the BMA said in a statement on Monday.

The organisation said fatalities and collisions caused by driving under the influence of alcohol had not decreased in the last decade, with almost one-fifth of all road deaths caused by drink-drivers.

Carrie Reidinger, a population health policy advice and research officer at the BMA, said: “We think it’s really important to call on government to lower the legal [use of alcohol]. This is in line with the approach taken by many European countries such as Ireland and Greece.”

The BMA’s statement said: “Harm caused by alcohol and other drugs, including when driving under the influence, places an avoidable burden on individuals and our society, emergency services, the NHS, and the economy.

“Therefore, the BMA, in collaboration with a range of organisations representing medical professional bodies, alcohol and road safety charities and campaign groups, police and emergency services, and others, have developed this consensus statement setting out key actions that are needed to tackle this issue.”

Other recommendations in the BMA’s statement include mandatory labelling on all alcohol products to include health risk warnings, increasing alcohol and drug treatment capacity and improving the awareness of the effects of drinking on driving.

The Metropolitan police’s advice on driving after consuming alcohol is there is no way to know how much you can drink and stay under the limit, since it can depend on your weight, age, metabolism and the amount of food you have eaten.

At least 17 organisations have endorsed the BMA’s recommendations including the Alcohol Health Alliance, the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, Brake: The Road Safety Charity and IAM Roadsmart.

Lucy Straker, a campaigns manager at Brake, said: “We are proud to be a part of this consensus calling for a reduction in the legal alcohol limit … Road death is sudden, it’s traumatic and it sends shock waves across families, communities and workplaces, and changes lives for ever.

“Every year more than 200 people die in drink-driving-related crashes, with a further 1,600 being seriously injured – with a lot of these being innocent road users who haven’t had anything to drink. All of this puts a tremendous strain on our emergency services which can be reduced by lowering the limit.”