Politicians have warned that policing the new drink driving limits in Scotland will prove to be a diversion from some of the bigger crimes. They have said that having the police on standby to breathalyse drivers throughout the transition will mean that there will be fewer officers available to go after more serious offenders.
The warnings came as Scotland introduced laws which mean that drivers could be prosecuted if they were found to have an alcohol level of 50mg or higher when breathalysed. This compares to the 80mg that is the limit in England and Wales, and that was also the limit in Scotland prior to the changes. The new limit is similar to that of many European countries, and while public consensus is that similar changes would be welcomed in the UK, the government has said that it does not plan to reduce the limit in England or Wales.
Lobbyists and campaigners have said that the new limits were necessary because there were 20 deaths and hundreds of major injuries suffered every year on Scotland’s roads, as a result of accidents caused by drivers that were found to be over the limit, or involving drivers that were deemed to have been drunk. They also said that even a small amount of alcohol over the limit could lead to serious judgement impairment, and a much greater risk of accidents.
Politicians and some motoring groups have said that the changes, and the increased amount of police that are being given over to conducting spot checks, mean that drivers that are only marginally over the limit will be the ones penalised, while taking officers away from other areas means that serious problem offenders will get away without being caught as the police will be too busy.
There has also been a warning of public backlash against the changes, if drivers are pulled over too frequently for random checks. At the moment, the majority of people are behind the changes, but this could change if too many are prosecuted for being slightly over the limit or are being pulled over for random checks too often.