If the health lobbies have learned one things from their dealings with the tabloid press, it is that one must never let the truth get in the way of a good story. Take this new push from drink-driving campaigners to have the upper legal limit reduced from 80mg of alcohol to 50mg per 100 millilitres of blood, claiming it will save 170 lives a year. According to James Le Fanu in the Telegraph, this is plain bad science; put simply, the numbers don’t add up.

Le Fanu is clear: the Road Safety Act and introduction of breathalyser tests in 1967 were, to quote him, ‘undoubtedly the most immediately and dramatically beneficial piece of legislation of the 20th century.’ Within one year of the act being passed, the number of fatalities on Britain’s roads dropped by over 1,000, and serious injuries by over 10,000. The number of road fatalities has, since then, dropped steadily year by year, even though the number of vehicles on our roads has tripled.

Against that background, says Le Fanu, this latest call is unnecessary posturing. There are annually 240 alcohol related deaths on Britain’s roads; of these, only 48 occur when the driver’s blood alcohol level is between 50 and 80mg. So how could it possibly be that 170 lives would be saved?

Ah, well, say the road-safety loons, a reduction at the lower end will encourage heavier drinkers to consume less alcohol before driving. But there’s little evidence to suggest this and even less that it would save an additional 122 lives per annum.

If the proposal were to be acted on, it would be  a classic case of overbearing ‘over-treatment’, concomitant with the idea that if you throw enough drugs and regulations at a problem, it will vanish. Ad this lies at the heart of the nannying and overcautious schemes we are currently subjected to, from perfectly healthy people being prescribed statins ‘as a precaution’ to the creeping lunacy over not being able to order over- or undercooked meat in restaurants.

We did need regulation over drinking and driving, and we got it 50 years ago. This latest wheeze would mean anyone caught driving with a pint of beer in them could end up losing their license on evidence which is, as even a glance will tell you, bogus.

by Edward Baer