Friday, 4 December 2009

I Can Feel A New Tax Coming On

I heard a minister on the radio yesterday talking of taking up legal consultation to reduce the current legal limit for blood alcohol when driving - the legislation is also looking at introducing guidelines for drug levels in blood also.

On the face of it, this seems a good idea. Being over the limit while driving makes a vehicle a potential lethal weapon and we can only applaud positive moves. But the devil is in the detail. The current limit allows, realistically, for about a single drink to be taken and then driving. Lowering the limit effectively says no alcohol but doesn't, if you see what I mean. It would be better to take the issue off the table and say no alcohol or drugs are allowed in the system - it may be impractical but at least we know where we stand.

But all this presupposes that police and medical evidence shows that a good proportion of accidents are caused by alcohol levels between the old level and the new - by lowering the level we are trying to eliminate that band of accidents. That's the bit that the minister studiously avoided - there is no evidence to prove that a new limit would eliminate a new swathe of road accidents.

What it will do is to effectively give the police carte blanche to stop individuals on suspicion of being above the new limit - and because this will unlikely be manifested in poor driving it will be based merely on the opinion of the police. You can see what is coming next, can't you? There will be a new band of alcohol limit between the new an old limits where the police will have the discretion to fine individuals if no accident has been caused and an automatic 3 points on the licence - as it will be deemed some kind of warning against drink driving.

The best part from a revenue collection viewpoint is that there is no need to add new equipment to have to get a return on investment, police will have total discretion to stop people and it is unlikely they could either detect by smell or bad driving that a person is between the new an old levels so there can be no arguments. It will purely be down to the police.

Realistically, if there is new evidence of a whole band of accidents where it is proven that levels of alcohol below the old limit was the primary cause, then I am all for this. If not, suspect the worst, is my opinion.

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