Durham became the first police force in the UK to make use of the revised drink driving laws that came into effect on 10th April.
A 42-year-old driver suspected of drink driving provided Durham roads police with a positive roadside breath test just minutes after the new legislation came into effect. He was then taken to a police station where he was found to have 44mg of alcohol in 100ml of breath, 9mg over the legal drink drive limit of 35mg per 100ml.
Previously the driver would have been able to choose between providing police with the roadside breath test (known as the ‘evidential test’) or replacing this with a blood or urine specimen (known as the ‘statutory option’).
New legislation introduced by the Deregulation Act 2015 removes the statutory option and drivers can no longer choose not to proceed with the evidential test if requested by police. The statutory option was given legal force by the Road Traffic Act 1988 has now been repealed by Schedule 11 of the new Deregulation Act.
Closing the Drink Driving Loophole
Some people considered the availability of the statutory option as a ‘legal loophole’ that drivers could exploit.
Waiting at a police station for a healthcare professional to take a blood sample could take some time and, by the time a test was conducted, a driver’s blood alcohol level could fall to within the legal limit. Drivers could, therefore, escape prosecution even though they might have been over the limit when stopped at the roadside by police.
25% of all drink-drive suspects taking the statutory option managed to get off all charges when they took the statutory option and no medical professional was on hand at a police station to take a blood test, according to former Road Safety Minister Stephen Hammond.
At the time the Deregulation Bill was going through Parliament, a Whitehall spokesperson said that the new law will "close a loophole which allows those testing positive in breath tests to sober up while they wait for a blood or urine sample to be taken."
Drink Driving and Fatal Road Accidents
230 people were killed in drink-driving related road collisions in 2012 and, of the 920 drivers killed in fatal road traffic accidents that year, an estimated 18% were over the legal limit.
You are still three times more likely to die in a crash if you drink alcohol but are under the legal limit, according to road safety charity Brake. They are calling for zero tolerance on drink driving and you can read more about their campaign on their website.
The effective closing of the ‘legal loophole’ by the Deregulation Act will go some way to ensuring that drivers who put other people’s lives at risk by driving after drinking alcohol have a much less chance of getting off. We hope that the new law will act as a deterrent to drivers and make them think twice before getting behind the wheel after a drink.
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