Brake joins road safety groups and emergency services to call for lower drink-drive limit

10 October 2016

Public opinion polls show 77% in favour of a lower legal limit

Today, Brake, the road safety charity has joined a wide range other groups calling for MPs to reduce the UK’s high drink driving limit. See notes to editors for the full list.

There is also strong public support for lowering the limit, with the British Social Attitude Survey recently finding that three quarters of the public (77%) support lowering the drink driving limit.[i]

The Government state that drink driving ‘remains a priority’, but there has been no reduction in the number of drink driving deaths since 2010.

  • Every year drink driving causes 240 deaths and more than 8,000 casualties in the UK. This costs £800 million a year.
  • 60% of those who are killed or injured are people other than the driver, such as passengers, pedestrians and cyclists.
  • In England and Wales the drink-drive limit is set at 80mg alcohol/100ml blood and has been since 1965.

England and Wales have one of the highest drink drive limits in the world. Set 80mg alcohol per 100ml blood, it is greater than the rest of Europe (with the exception only of Malta), as well as Commonwealth countries such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Lowering our drink drive limit to 50mg alcohol/100ml blood would reduce drink driving deaths by at least 10%.

The Government of Malta recently announced plans to lower the drink drive limit to 50mg this month in a new National Alcohol Policy to reduce harm.(1)

Scotland lowered its limit to 50mg in December 2014, and police figures showed a 12.5% decrease in drink-drive offences in the first nine months.(2) Northern Ireland is set to lower its drink driving limit before the end of 2016.

A two-minute animation has been produced by the Institute of Alcohol Studies to support this campaign, outlining the key arguments:

Gary Rae, Brake’s director of communications and campaigns, said: “Drink driving remains one of the biggest causes of devastating road crashes; often young and inexperienced drivers and passengers are involved and frequently they are the tragic victims. We must continue to send a clear message to all drivers that drinking and driving is a lethal cocktail. It's shocking to see how many crashes, many involving deaths and serious injuries, have involved men in their 20s. This call to action today is a useful stepping stone to a time when there is a zero alcohol limit.”

Katherine Brown, Director at the Institute of Alcohol Studies, said: “Recent decades have seen great improvements in road safety, but progress on drink driving has ground to a halt. With hundreds of lives lost each year, we can’t afford to let England and Wales fall behind our neighbours in road safety standards. “It’s time the Government looked at the evidence and what other countries are doing to save lives and make roads safer. We need to make drink driving a thing of the past, and to do this we need a lower drink drive limit.

Notes to editors:

Brake is a national road safety charity, founded in 1995, that exists to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries that happen on roads every day, make streets and communities safer for everyone, and care for families bereaved and injured in road crashes. Brake promotes road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, and effective road safety policies. We do this through national campaigns,community educationservices for road safety professionals and employers, and by coordinating the UK's flagship road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. Brake is a national, government-funded provider of support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury, including through a helpline and support packs.

Follow Brake on TwitterFacebook, or The Brake Blog.

More information on drink driving, with fully referenced statistics and information on drink driving accidents across England and Wales broken down by region, can be found here –

Drink driving background info:

In England and Wales the drink-drive limit is set at 80mg alcohol/100ml blood and has been since 1965. Drivers who drink up to this limit are six times more likely to be killed in an accident as drivers who have not consumed alcohol.

The cost of UK drink driving accidents and casualties is £800 million per year.(3) This does not include the 40% of fatal accidents where people have alcohol within their system, but are below the 80mg limit.(4)

Drink driving leads to 240 deaths and more than 8000 casualties each year.

The Department for Transport calculate that 60% of those who are killed or injured in reported drink driving incidents are people other than the driver, such as passengers, other road users or pedestrians.(5)

Organisations lending their support to the animation calling for a lower drink drive limit include:


The RAC Foundation The AA
Institute of Advanced Motoring Campaign Against Drink Driving
Insure the Box BRAKE: The Road Safety Charity
Allianz Abellio
Medical Council on Alcohol Spectrum Community Health
Alcohol Health Alliance The Royal College of Emergency Medicine
British Medical Journal Royal College of Practitioners
Royal Society of Public Health College of Paramedics
SCARD: Support & Care After Road Death & Injury Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Roadpeace
Fire Brigades Union Police Federation
Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner
Leicestershire Police and Crime Commissioner Durham Police and Crime Commissioner



(1)  Malta National Government (Oct 2016) Alcohol Policy Document

(2)  BBC News (29 May 2015) Drink-drive offences fall after lower limit introduced.

(3)  Institute of Alcohol Studies. Drink driving factsheet.

(4)  Department for Transport (2016) Proportion of killed drivers/riders resulting from reported accidents by BAC category

(5)  Department for Transport (2016) Estimates for accidents involving illegal alcohol levels: 2014 (final)

[i] Telegraph (20th Sep 2016) Three quarters of people think the drink driving limit should be lowered.

Tags: Drink-Drive research government