Driving for zero: alcohol and drugs

Despite decades of campaigns, one in eight road deaths still involves a driver over the limit. Because the UK's drink drive limit is high, there will be more, unrecorded, casualties involving drivers impaired by alcohol but under the current limit - all countries in Europe apart from Malta have a lower drink drive limit than the UK (excepting Scotland which reduced its drink drive limit in December 2014).  

Drug driving is also a widespread menace: since the introduction of a law in March 2015, allowing police to test and arrest in England and Wales for certain illegal and legal drugs, there has been an 800% increase in arrests despite limitations in testing equipment and levels of policing. Get more facts on drink driving and drug driving and scroll down for what we need, how to take action, and more campaign news. 

However, despite the legislation that the government has put in place in 2015, the police have been limited in their ability to detect drug-driving at the roadside. This is due to the absence of Home Office type-approved roadside drug-screening devices. The type approval procedure aims to ensure devices meet government standards. Currently, there are only two devices that have type-approval, and they are only capable of screening for cannabis (THC) and cocaine. Other commonly detected drugs (notably MDMA /ecstasy) have no type-approved testing device. 

What are we calling for?

  • An effective zero-tolerance drink-drive (20mg alcohol per 100ml of blood), in line with evidence even one small drink affects driving. It should be none for the road.
  • The extension of the England and Wales drug driving law to Scotland and Northern Ireland.
  • Stepped-up and targeted enforcement, giving police the strategies, staffing and equipment to test and convict at effective levels to deter.
  • Type-approved roadside screening devices for all banned drugs, with priority given to a device that screens for MDMA (ecstasy). 

Take action

Campaign news

Brake's Roads to Justice campaigners hand in petitions at Downing Street calling for stronger criminal driving laws, 25/10/2016
Brake joins road safety groups and emergency services to call for lower drink-drive limits
, 10/10/2016
Urgent action needed as drink-drive death figures stall
, 04/08/2016
Just one shot could ruin your tournament
, 09/06/2016 
Brake responds to Northern Ireland drink-driving consultation
, 26/05/2016
Convictions up, but shocking numbers still drug-driving
, 29/02/2016  
No one loves a drunk driver, 11/02/2016
Government must learn from Scottish drink drive laws, 10/02/2016
New laws catch more reckless drug drivers than ever, 28/01/2016
Shocking numbers of drivers risked lives in Scotland last Christmas, 21/01/2016
Brake urges rugby fans to kick the risk of drink-driving into touch, 18/09/2015
Britain still struggling to break the drink drive habit, 01/08/2015 
Brake urges drivers: 'not a drop not a drag', as police launch drink and drug drive crackdown, 01/06/2015 
Brake backs Police Federation plea for lower drink drive limit, 19/05/2015 
Drug drivers beware: zero-tolerance law in force today welcomed by campaigners, 02/03/2015
Myth-busting 'sober up' e-learning resource launched, 22/01/2015
Brake echoes police calls, warning young people of dangers of drink and drug driving, 21/01/2015
Charity welcomes reduction in Scotland's drink driving rates, 09/01/2015

End notes

[1] Provisional estimates involving illegal alcohol levels2014 (final figures) and 2015 (provisional figures), Department for Transport, 2016
[2] David Phillips et a, University of California, No safe combination of drink driving, British Medical Journal, Injury prevention, January 2014
[3] ETSC, BAC drink driving limits across Europe, June 2016
[4] www.gov.uk, Drug drive arrests on the rise, February 2016
[5] Preliminary Drug Testing Devices A Guide to Type Approval Procedures for Preliminary Drug Testing Devices Used for Transport Law Enforcement in Great Britain, Home Office, 2012
[6] Approved drug-testing devices, Home Office, 2015