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The Drink-Driving Message and Young Drivers - UK legal alcohol limit

Friday, 15th April 2011

One very clear memory I have from my student days is an anti drink-driving drama presented by a touring company at my sixth form college. It was a memorable experience and the message itself was very powerful. I remember a friend turning to me after the performance saying she was never ever going to drink and drive.

Targeting young people with such messages seems to be a worthwhile pursuit. Crimestoppers have recently launched a competition for school children to design a poster with an anti drink-drive message. The perception of problems such as drink-driving need to be tackled at an early age - sometimes presenting young people with valuable information can be the best way of disseminating it.

And the message seems to be getting through. In Britain, the number of deaths caused by drink-driving accidents has seen a steady decrease since the 1970s, a change consistent with a change in general attitude. Last year the government released statistics showing that deaths related to drink-driving were less than a quarter of the figure from 1979.

The stark message sent out to young people in the USA, is that someone is killed every 15 minutes because of drink-driving. A school in Napa Valley recently adopted quite a shocking approach to spreading the anti drink-driving message. A group of students were involved in an exercise which involved removing a student from class every 15 minutes, to symbolise someone being killed by drink-driving. Then students with fake blood on their faces were used in simulated traffic accidents near the school. There was even a mock memorial service the following morning, after the 'victims' had stayed away in hotels for the night.

Perhaps colleges in the UK with students near the driving age should consider a similar approach. Since there are still hundreds of deaths in the UK caused by drink-driving, there is still work to be done. In March, transport secretary Philip Hammond was criticised when he ruled out lowering the UK's drink-drive limit but he did say he would toughen up enforcement of drink-driving laws.

So what is the legal limit in the UK? It is impossible to give the recommended limit in terms of units of alcohol, since that will depend on a number of factors including body mass and metabolism. The actual limit definition is given as follows - 

80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood or

35mcg per 100ml of breath or

107mg per 100ml of urine.

(In most other European countries, the limit is less, usually 50mg per 100ml of blood.)



A warning to those currently taking driving lessons or who have recently passed their test - under the New Drivers Act 1997, newly qualified drivers who receive 6 or more penalty points on their driving licence within 2 years of passing their driving test, will have their licence revoked. In addition they will have to retake the theory and practical driving tests. Someone convicted of drink-driving within two years of passing their test could lose their licence.

If the drink-driving statistics aren't enough of a deterrent, maybe the idea of losing your driving license is enough of a sobering thought.