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The Sunday Times reports today that the Government are planning to reduce the UK drink-drive limit from 80mg to 50mg, following the recommendations of a review by Sir Peter North. Now, this particular kite has been flown many times before, especially by that newspaper, and of course the forthcoming election will at least for a while kick it into touch. But there is no doubt that pressure continues to grow to cut the limit.

Over time, such a reduction would have a slow, insidious effect on the pub trade at least equal to that caused by the smoking ban, and the effect would spread much further than the stereotypical “country pubs”. It would ultimately cut pubs as generally understood back to a small urban rump, and any licensed premises that survived in suburban and rural areas would effectively just be restaurants.

Whether it would make any difference to road casualties is highly questionable, when the vast majority of drink-related accidents involve drivers well over the current limit, and the reduction in traffic police means that you can drive for years without ever being breath-tested – unless, that is, you have just driven off the car park of a pub. So it’s likely to do much more to close pubs than reduce road casualties.

There’s also some odd arithmetic in the article – if it is possible, as it says, for a man to drink 1½-2 pints of beer and stay within the 80mg limit, surely it will in most circumstances be possible for him to drink one pint and stay within the 50mg limit – something borne out by this TRRL booklet from the 1980s. Not that that makes it any better, of course.




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