Drink-drive limit: policy

Information on the drink-drive limit in Scotland and the policy behind it.

In December 2014, we reduced the drink-drive limit in Scotland from 80mg/100ml of blood to 50mg/100ml of blood, bringing Scotland in line with the majority of other European countries.

The reduced drink-drive limit came into effect on 5 December 2014.  It followed an independent review of Drink and Drug Driving Law conducted by Sir Peter North in 2010 and the passing of the Scotland Act 2012, which devolved the power to set the blood alcohol limit for driving in Scotland to the Scottish Parliament.

Sir Peter North concluded that reducing the drink drive limit from 80mg to 50mg would save lives, because evidence in his report found drivers are six times more likely to die in a road traffic accident with a blood alcohol concentration between 50mg and 80mg than with zero blood alcohol.

Evidence from the British Medical Association also indicated that the relative risk of being involved in a road traffic crash for drivers with a reading of 80mg alcohol per 100ml blood (the “old” limit) was 10 times higher than for drivers with a zero blood alcohol reading.

There was wide public support for this move, with almost three quarters (74%) of respondents in favour of a lower drink drive limit when we consulted on proposals to lower the drink drive limit in 2012. We published an analysis of consultation responses in March 2013.

The new drink driving limits are:

  • 50 mg of alcohol in every 100ml of blood
  • 22 mcg of alcohol in every 100ml of breath
  • 67 mg of alcohol in every 100 ml of urine

We believe these new limits will help to make Scotland’s roads safer.  On average, just over one in eight deaths on Scotland’s roads in recent years involved drivers over the legal limit.  That is an average of 20 deaths each year.   

Estimates of how many lives can be saved with a lower limit vary, but applying the estimates made by the North Report to Scotland indicates between three and 17 lives could be saved each year on Scottish roads from a lower limit of 50mg/100ml, as well as reducing the number of people injured on the road in drink-drive accidents.

We have published further guidance on mygov.scot.


Email: Central Enquiries Unit ceu@gov.scot

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