Driving for zero: alcohol and drugs

Despite decades of campaigns, one in eight road deaths still involves a driver over the limit [1]. 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 [2]. All countries in Europe apart from Malta have a lower drink drive limit than the UK (excepting Scotland which reduced its drink drive limit a bit in December 2014).[3]  

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.[4] 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. [5] Currently, there are only two devices that have type-approval, and they are only capable of screening for cannabis (THC) and cocaine [6]. Other commonly detected drugs (notably MDMA (ecstasy)) have no type-approved testing device. 

What we need

  • A drink drive limit of 20mg per 100ml of blood, in line with evidence even one small drink affects driving. It should be none for the road.
  • Extension of 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). 
  • More up to date research into the prevalence of drugs and alcohol. In government research published in 2001, it was found that 18% of dead drivers had illegal drugs in their system, but this research hasn't been repeated. 

Take action

Campaign news

Charity calls on First Minister to introduce drug drive law, 16/03/2017
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
Government action demanded as England and Wales fall behind in fight against drink driving, 19/12/2014 
New lower drink-drive limit in Scotland welcomed as a useful stepping stone to zero tolerance, 04/12/2014 
Charity appeals to drivers: not a drop, not a drag, as police crackdown starts, 01/12/2014 
50 years, 25,000+ dead, since first anti-drink drive ad, 07/11/2014
Public urged to speak out to stop the UK's million drug drivers, 05/08/2014
Drink drive message still not getting through as one in 15 fail breath-tests, 25/07/2014
#dontcrosstheline: Brake teams up with ad agency to spread World Cup drink drive message, 15/07/2014
Brake urges public to stamp out drink driving as police launch summer crackdown, 02/06/2014
Brake calls for zero-tolerance on at-work drink- and drug-drivers, 14/05/2014
Brake welcomes fall in Xmas drink driving but renews call for zero tolerance, 24/01/2014
Brake criticises first motorway pub as a dangerous temptation, 21/01/2014
Christmas party-goers urged to save lives by standing up to 'designated drivers' who drink, 10/12/2013
Charity appeal to Scotland's drivers: not a drop, not a drag this Xmas, 06/12/2013
Charity appeal to drivers: not a drop, not a drag, as police crackdown starts, 29/11/2013
Charity calls for urgent government action to stem huge rise in drink drive deaths, 26/09/2013
Charity calls on public to help stamp out drink driving during summer heatwave, 26/07/2013
Brake praises government's zero-tolerance drug drive limit proposals, 19/07/2013
15 year old girl's 13,000 strong petition to end drink driving handed to Downing Street, 03/07/2013
Charity warns one drink is too many if you're driving, as drink drive crackdown launched, 31/05/2013
Look out for your mates by speaking out on deadly drink driving, says Brake, 15/03/2013
Expert panel on drug driving reports, Brake calls for zero tolerance, 03/03/2013
Petition handed to PM on drug driving by bereaved family, 22/02/2013
Brake reaction: 7,123 caught drink driving over Xmas and New Year 18/01/2013
Bereaved family campaigning on drug driving receive national charity award 17/01/2013
Brake's response to the Scottish Government consultation on lowering the drink drive limit, 19/11/2012
Bereaved family urges drivers to pledge 'not a drop, not a drag', as police launch crackdown, 30/11/2012
Brake responds to Northern Ireland Assembly consultation on drink drive enforcement, 06/10/2012
Brake calls for a zero tolerance drink drive limit in Scotland, 06/09/2012
Drink drive deaths up by 12%: Brake appeals for action, 20/08/2012
Charity calls for action on drink driving as results of summer crackdown released, 31/07/2012
Croydon MP wins national road safety award for drug driving campaign, 15/06/2012
Brake welcomes plans for lower drink drive limit in Scotland, 28/05/2012
Breath tests down: Brake reaction, 19/04/2012
Consultation on drink drive rehabilitation courses, 06/03/2012
Brake responds to report on the risk of driving on cannabis, 10/02/2012
Huge roads policing cuts put public at risk, warns charity, 23/01/2012
Brake praises police efforts in catching drunk and drugged drivers, 20/01/2012
Government must act now to tackle horrifying levels of drug driving among young people, 04/01/2012
Brake appeals for zero tolerance on drink driving over Christmas, 15/12/2011
David Cameron agrees drug screeners are overdue after meeting Brake volunteer, 04/12/2011
Northern Ireland government leads the way in tackling drink drive carnage, 30/09/2011
Brake reacts to breath testing data suggesting drink driving on the rise, 01/08/2011
Government says it will not lower drink drive limit, 21/03/2011
Morning after drink driving on the rise, according to Brake and Direct Line survey, 14/12/2010
Transport Select Committee publishes recommendations on tackling drink and drug driving, 02/12/2010
Brake evidence to Transport Select Committee enquiry on tackling drink and drug driving, 27/08/2010
Drugs Roadside Testing Bill presented to parliament, 05/07/2010
Independent review of drink and drug driving by Sir Peter North recommends lower limit, 16/06/2010
Brake and Direct Line publish Safe Driving Report 2: Fit to Drive, 01/02/2010

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