Council chiefs, fire and rescue authorities (FRA) and a leading motoring group have all called for the current drink driving limit to be tightened in a bid to save scores of lives a year.
The Local Government Association (LGA), which lobbies on behalf of FRAs, has claimed that dropping the current limit from 80mgs to 50mgs per 100ml of blood could save up to 170 lives annually by reducing the number of road traffic accidents.
The 50mgs limit is ‘standard for virtually every other country’ council chiefs argue, and highlight that Scotland introduced the lower drink-drive limit last year and Northern Ireland has announced plans to follow suit.
The calls are backed by the RAC, which revealed in a recent survey of 2,607 drivers that more than 38% wanted the Scottish lower limit to be the same across England and Wales while 23% wanted to go a step further and have a total ban on consuming alcohol before driving.
On top of the road safety aspects, it is estimated lowering the limit would save almost £300m annually by reducing the number of call-outs to accidents and the associated public sector costs of incidents.
Cllr Jeremy Hilton, chair of the LGA's fire services management committee, said: ‘This country has one of the highest drink drive limits anywhere and the LGA believes that the current limit is simply unacceptable. England is lagging well behind and all other countries cannot be wrong.
‘Saving lives must be a priority for any government and this measure could save up to 170 annually. Fire and rescue authorities up and down the country are working hard to reduce the number of road traffic collisions by innovative and highly effective awareness-raising campaigns. The lowering of the drink drive limit would help to support this work and ensure that more people's lives are saved.’
Alcohol contributes to about 4% of all road traffic collisions and plays a major part in about 13% of all fatal crashes, the LGA said.