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Under the Influence….

June 7, 2010


Ayr, Scotland – Given the opportunity to save lives it would not be unreasonable to expect politicians to do so.

Yet ten years of prevarication, inaction and fence-sitting by successive Labour Government Transport Ministers has resulted in the death of sixteen hundred people. The estimated number of lives that would have been saved in England and Wales in the past ten years if the UK drink drive limit had been dropped from its current 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg.

Now the Lib Dem/Conservative Coalition Government Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, has an opportunity to implement recommendations, made in a report by Government adviser Sir Peter North, which would see an overhaul of the UK’s forty year old drink driving laws and which could save one hundred and sixty-eight lives a year.

Commissioned in December 2009 by Labour Transport Secretary, Lord Adonis, the North Report was submitted to the Department of Transport (DfT) in May but has been played down by Ministers until leaked to a UK national newspaper last week.

According to the Daily Telegraph North is recommending:-

Cutting the drink-drive limit from 80mg to 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood in line with most other European countries.

An automatic 12-month driving ban, for those caught over the new limit.

Random breath testing.

Removing the right to a second breathalyser test at a police station.

A 20mg alcohol limit for inexperienced and commercial drivers.

A new offence of driving with an illegal substance in the bloodstream at levels deemed impairing to combat the menace of drug driving.

Minister Hammond’s response on this issue will be seen in road safety circles as a measure of his commitment to drive down road crash casualties. Will he be prepared to face down the power of the Federation of Licensed Victuallers Associations, which represents pub landlords, and the Portman Group, lobbying on behalf of the brewing and alcohol retail sector, and support North’s research based case for a drink drive limit  reduction? Or will it be a political decision, a fudge, aimed at keeping all sides of the drink drive debate, if not happy, quiet.

Drinking and riding is one area where UK motorcyclists deserve praise. Convictions for riding with excess blood alcohol levels are extremely low. However riders are the victims of drunk drivers. Surprising then that on this issue the UK riders groups are not actively and publically supporting organisations like the Campaign Against Drinking and Driving and lobbying MP’s to support a drink-drive limit cut.

There are issues other than bus lanes and parking that interest and concern riders.

While on the subject of influence BRR’s comment on the actor Dennis Hopper caused a flurry of e-mail on the subject of Hopper’s and others influence on people getting into biking. We seem to have broad spectrum of rider readers as apart from a long list of race riders, Marianna Faithful, Steve McQueen and Robbie Williams featured. It also appears that riders have spent considerable time in cinemas as claims that, ‘No Limit’, ‘The Wild One’, ‘The Leather Boys’, ‘Girl on a Motorcycle’, ‘If’, ‘The Great Escape’, ‘Any Given Sunday’, Silver Dream Racer’, ‘Tron’, ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ and ‘ Torque’ also influenced BRR readers to be riders.

Here’s one contribution. Picked on the simple basis that I enjoyed the ‘Great Escape’, liked Steve McQueen but always thought that Bud Ekins never received the recognition he deserved. But then perhaps he didn’t want it.

“I never met Bud Ekins but have always admired his skills as a rider in particular his stunt riding. Indeed his unattributed epic jump in “The Great Escape”, viewed in 1963 by me as a young boy from the circle of my local cinema, epitomised the freedom of biking that I now know and love. Indeed set against a real world background of the cold war the sub text of the jump i.e. from a tyrannical military dictatorship to a democracy was not lost on those of us who later studied the heroic escape attempts from the then East Germany”.

Ride safe and may your influence ride with you.

© Back Roads Rider 2010

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