Government proposals could close a loophole that helps drink-drivers escape their convictions. The limit is 35 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath and this can be “preliminarily” checked roadside via hand-held breathalysers. These readings are then confirmed at Police Stations via more accurate “evidential“ breathalysers. However, motorists who fail these second tests - but register less than 50 microgrammes of alcohol - have the right to replace this evidence with that from blood or urine tests. This is a throwback to a time when breathalysers were not necessarily amazingly accurate. This verification process can take time. Motorists, after all, might have to wait for medical professionals which gives them time to sober-up enough to pass their blood/urine assessments. The Government is proposing to remove this legal right. Why? Because more accurate roadside “evidential” breathalysers are being rolled-out across the UK. These - the Government proposes - provide reliable enough evidence for legal convictions.
The Government’s proposals which should be unveiled early 2013 could also ensure that repeat offenders, which are some of the most dangerous motorists on the road, are more likely to have their vehicles seized. Government figures show that there has been a rise in the number of motorists being convicted who are habitual drink-drivers. As such, in 2000, 13,299 motorists received at least their second ban for drink-driving. This rose to 19,605 in 2009. Furthermore, 10% of motorists interviewed for the Crime Survey of England and Wales admitted getting behind the wheel while over the drink-drive limit. Furthermore, a survey of 1,000 motorists by road safety charity Brake proved that 50% had driven with at least some alcohol in their systems within the past twelve months - and that 28% had consumed a significant amount then driven the following morning. It is likely many of these were over the legal limit. Brake emphasises that even small amounts of alcohol can affect driving so it is urging motorists not to drive with “any” in their systems.
The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, Stephen Hammond, revealed: “We have made great progress in tackling drink drivers and the 2011 fatality figure for drink and drive accidents is the second lowest ever recorded.” Mr Hammond continued: “However, last year 280 people died ruining the lives of families up and down the country so more needs to be done to eradicate this menace. That is why we are taking forward a package of measures to streamline enforcement against drink driving” The Transport Minister concluded: “I am determined to make the jobs of those who deal with drink drivers easier and less bureaucratic so that bringing offenders to justice is not left to chance.”
The consequences of exceeding the drink-drive limit can be severe – even assuming that nobody is killed or injured. As such intoxicated motorists in charge of vehicles face up to three months imprisonment, £2,500 fines, and driving bans. This offence relates to those in or around vehicles with the intention of driving. In contrast, motorists who drive or attempt to drive can receive up to six months imprisonment, £5,000 fines, and twelve month bans. This increases to three years for those convicted twice within a decade. Most seriously, those who cause death by dangerous driving could receive fourteen year sentences, unlimited fines, and two year bans. Finally, motorists who fail to provide breath samples can receive six month prison sentences, £5,000 fines, and one year bans. Coke anybody?