Correcting the drink drive limit

Already in 2017, Dorset has sadly seen the number of road deaths reach a higher level than for the full year of 2016. Over a quarter of these fatalities involved a motorist driving whilst under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both.

In England & Wales, the alcohol limit for drivers is 80 milligrams of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of blood in the body. This is the most generous legal drink drive threshold in Europe.

Earlier this year, I wrote to the Secretary of State for Transport to formally express my concerns about the impact this has on motorists’ behaviour. As I anticipated, the dismissive response I received stated that there are no plans to review the current limit. Although lobbying from various quarters has failed to gain traction in Government, I remain strongly convinced that we should not underestimate the impact that the current limit has on road safety.

The law should give drivers clear and conclusive guidance on how much alcohol they can safely and legally consume. As it stands, our excessively generous threshold creates confusion. Drivers are left to guess at how much alcohol is acceptable and whether a half pint more will send them over the limit. Nobody can conclusively say how much is too much.

While a zero milligram limit is not feasible, given that some foods, mouthwashes and other products contain small amounts of alcohol, the low limit seen in some European countries goes a long way to achieving the same effect. A limit where one drink could cost you your licence sends the right message. It would more effectively deter motorists from drinking at all before getting behind the wheel.

If you know that you are allowed to drink something, the possibility of losing control of how much you drink and consequently your ability to drive safely is very real. People take chances when there is the option to do so. We know that any blood alcohol content will affect the way that you drive. Be it through lack of attention, speed of reaction or just increased bravado, permitting drinking before driving creates risk. 

Every one of the road deaths involving alcohol in Dorset this year was needless. Making the selfish choice to drive while under the influence has the potential to devastate families.

This is why I am asking residents to take part in my short public consultation on the current drink drive limit. Many of you have raised the issue of road safety as a top priority and that is why it features so heavily in my new Police & Crime Plan for Dorset.


On behalf of all Dorset residents, I intend to continue to lobby Government to rethink this issue and as this develops, I am keen to ensure that the views of even more local people are at the forefront of discussions.

Martyn Underhill

Dorset Police & Crime Commissioner


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