Ministers are poised to shelve plans to reduce the legal drink-drive alcohol limit.
In June this year legal expert Sir Peter North produced an official review supporting a lower limit. He recommended cutting it from 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg – bringing Britain into line with most of Europe.
The outgoing Labour government had indicated it was open to the report’s conclusions. Lord Adonis, the former transport secretary, had said there was a strong case for a lower limit, but current transport secretary Philip Hammond is unconvinced by the findings.
He believes that it will have a damaging effect on rural pubs, and would criminalise millions who drink in moderation but need to drive to their local pub. For an average man the 50mg limit equates to just under a pint of average-strength beer.
Hammond has delayed any decision until November, so a report on the effect on rural pubs can be evaluated. Those against the change argue that lowering the limit would not deter serious offenders; those involved in accidents are often well over the limit.
Also, alcohol is related to 17 per cent of accidents in the UK but 27 per cent in France, where the limit is already 50mg.
But safety groups such as the Campaign against Drinking and Driving were quick to condemn Hammond's decision. Research suggests that 65 lives a year could be saved, and Sir Peter’s report suggested this figure could be as high as 300.
RAC director Professor Stephen Glaister said the group "broadly favoured a reduction in the limit", but agreed that it would do little to stop the most serious offenders.