On May 1st 2010 David Cameron is quoted as saying,
‘I really want people to understand, if they get a Conservative Government with me as prime minister, we will make sure, as we take difficult decisions, that we are compassionate, that we are reasonable, that we are responsible.’
But it seems that this ethos is not going to be applied universally and that there is at least one ‘difficult decision’ that he can neither take nor support, even if it might save lives.
As reported in The Independent Philip Hammond, the transport secretary said he would not follow a recommendation in a Whitehall-commissioned report by Sir Peter North that the limit be reduced from 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg.
The evidence on this occasion is difficult to dispute. The North Review notes: ‘Drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of between 20 mg/100 ml and 50 mg/100 ml have at least a three times greater risk of dying in a vehicle crash than those drivers who have no alcohol in their blood’
Instead more focus and presumably money and hard pressed resources are to be placed on catching and convicting drink drivers who persistently ignore the existing alcohol limits. Is that the same as leaving all of our doors unlocked and only going after the thieves once they have actually stolen the goods?
Driving a motor vehicle is a serious business. It requires a high level of attention and in the majority of cases complex eye, hand and foot co-ordination. It is easy to forget that at 30MPH we are travelling at 45 feet every second. Studies show that thinking and reaction time is about 1.5 seconds, so at 30MPH we will travel almost seventy feet before taking any action.
Alcohol reduces our ability across the board. It impairs our thinking, influences our decision making process and slows our reaction times. You will notice that Formula One drivers do not have a ‘quick beer’ before a race in order to increase their performance.
Perhaps it is time to recognise that measuring the blood alcohol content of a person is not necessarily an indication of that person’s ability to drive under the influence of alcohol, no matter how ‘small’ the amount. Unfortunately experts have again been ignored and a significant opportunity to save lives missed.
Is the ‘right’ to have one or two alcoholic drinks more important than risking your own life or taking someone else’s?