Response by Brake, the road safety charity
2 January 2013
Brake is an independent charity working across the UK to make roads safer, prevent road death and injury, and care for victims. Brake carries out research into road users' attitudes and behaviour in relation to road safety, engages schools and communities to spread road safety education, disseminates international research, guidance and case studies to fleet and road safety professionals through its Fleet Safety Forum and Road Safety Forum, and supports communities campaigning for road safety. It is also a national, government-funded provider of specialist support for people bereaved and seriously injured in road crashes, running a national helpline and providing packs that are handed to bereaved families by police following every road death.
Brake strongly welcomes the proposals within this consultation, on the basis that this is expected to help police to prosecute drink and drug drivers more efficiently, thereby ensuring fewer drink drivers escape prosecution, and freeing up police time for frontline traffic enforcement checks, helping to deter offending and reduce the toll of crashes and casualties.
Brake recommends a tougher conversion between BAC and breath measurements, especially given the CPS and police operate a higher charging threshold, to reflect a more scientifically accurate comparison and prevent drink drivers escaping prosecution.
Brake urges the government to reconsider its stance on lowering the drink drive limit, given the wealth of evidence that even low levels of alcohol significantly impair driving , and given evidence that lowering the limit reduces high-end margin drink drive offenders and brings about casualty reductions . Lowering the limit to 20mg alcohol/100ml blood, which Brake recommends, would send out a clear message that it is not safe to have one drink and drive.
Q1. Should the statutory option be withdrawn or not?
Yes. Brake agrees the statutory option is unnecessary and creates additional costs and difficulties in prosecuting some drivers. Brake therefore recommends its withdrawal.
Q2. Do you agree with the retention of the implied blood to breath alcohol concentration ratio of 2,300:1 for the prescribed limit upon the withdrawal of the statutory option? If not should a ratio of 2,000:1 (or what other ratio) be used with a higher prescribed breath alcohol concentration or with lower prescribed blood and urine alcohol concentrations?
Brake recommends increasing the ratio to 2,400:1 given this is the average conversion rate. To have a lower rate is unduly lenient, because it is already the case that the police and the CPS operate a charging threshold at 40mcg, 5mcg alcohol above the limit, before prosecuting for drink driving. To employ both a charging threshold and a lower ratio means some drivers who are over the legal blood alcohol limit are likely to escape prosecution for drink driving.
Indeed, Brake recommends lowering both the blood and breath concentration legal limits, given, as the DfT admits, that concentrations below the current limit impairs drivers significantly .
Brake recommends a lower limit of 20mg alcohol per 100ml blood, around 8mcg breath per 100ml. There is a great deal of evidence that even very small amounts of alcohol impair driving. Sir Peter North's report acknowledged that drivers with a BAC of 20mg to 50 mg/100ml have at least a three times greater risk of dying in a vehicle crash than drivers who have no alcohol in their blood . However, Brake recognises a reduction from 80 to 50mg would also be a positive step for road safety, as is proposed for Scotland and Northern Ireland. This is on the basis that crash risk is significantly higher for drivers with 50-80mg alcohol per 100ml blood compared to drivers with lower levels of alcohol , and other countries that have reduced their limit to 50mg have seen a reduction in casualties .
Q3. Are there any issues related to the statutory option which you consider might justify a different position about whether to withdraw it or not in different parts of Great Britain?
Q4. Should the statutory option be withdrawn in the rail, shipping and aviation sectors? If not in which sectors should it be kept?
Q5. Should the requirement for a preliminary breath test prior to the requirement for an evidential breath test outside a police station or hospital be removed?
Yes. Brake agrees it is sensible to remove the need for a preliminary test for the sake of improving efficiency.
Q6. Should legislation be amended to allow registered health care professionals to take evidential blood specimens for drink and drug driving proceedings elsewhere than at a police station?
Yes. Brake agrees it is sensible to allow registered health care professionals to take evidential blood specimens for drink and drug drinking proceedings elsewhere than at a police station, for the sake of improving efficiency and helping to ensure that drink drivers do not escape prosecution.
Q7. Do you have any comments on the proposal to allow registered healthcare professionals as well as doctors to answer the question about whether the condition of a drug driving suspect might be due to a drug?
Brake agrees this is an important proposal on the basis that it is expected to improve the speed and efficiency with which drug drivers will be prosecuted in circumstances where proof of impairment is still a requirement for prosecution.
Q8. Do you consider whether any changes (related to preliminary breath tests, testing procedures in hospitals and the question of whether a condition is due to drugs) made to the Road Traffic Act
should be extended to:
a. the Railways and Transport Safety Act for aviation;
b. the Railways and Transport Safety Act for shipping;
c. the Transport and Works Act for rail (including the
power to conduct evidential breath tests outside police
Q9. Do you agree that post-court rehabilitation schemes for drivers disqualified due to speeding, careless driving and other offences and for offenders with 7-11 penalty points should not be implemented for the foreseeable future?
Yes. Brake believes it would be detrimental to offer an additional course to drivers who have reached 7 – 11 penalty points in lieu of receiving further points when many will have already been offered a course through NDORS. It is unlikely to offer educational benefit to drivers who have already been on a course and is likely to undermine the penalty points system by allowing drivers who have committed numerous risky offences to escape a driving ban, which should be automatic for all drivers who rack up 12 points for the sake of protecting the public.
Q10. Do you agree that in principle the use of extended driving tests and other competence tests should be evaluated with a view to considering their use more widely for offences involving disqualification in excess of 56 days?
Yes. Brake would welcome extended driving/competence tests for drivers who have committed serious driving offences and urges the government to evaluate this option. Where a driver has taken significant risks with others' lives it is appropriate that they should prove they are ready to take responsibility on roads before they regain a licence. This test should focus on assessing understanding of the main risk factors on roads and the key principles of safe and responsible driving, and commitment and ability to driving as safely as possible. However, if introduced, it should be a compulsory test that is a condition of regaining your licence: not as a way to serve a shorter driving ban. In cases where drivers have caused very serious injury or death, it may not be appropriate for a driver to ever regain a driving licence. A licence is a privilege, not a right and a life-time driving ban may be appropriate in cases where there is a history of risk-taking, and consequently this resulted in loss of life or very serious injuries.
You can read more about Brake's calls for action at it's Not a drop, not a drag campaign page.