Drink and drug driving law - Transport Committee Contents


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 53-76)

EDMUND KING, PHILIP GOMM AND MALCOLM HEYMER

14 SEPTEMBER 2010

Witnesses: Edmund King, President, Automobile Association (AA), Philip Gomm, Head of External Communication, RAC Foundation, and Malcolm Heymer, Traffic Management Adviser, Association of British Drivers (ABD), gave evidence.

Q53   Chair: Good morning, gentlemen. Would you like to identify yourselves for our records, please?

Edmund King: Yes. Good morning. I am Edmund King. I am President of the Automobile Association.

Malcolm Heymer: I am Malcolm Heymer. I am Traffic Management Adviser to the Association of British Drivers.

Philip Gomm: I am Philip Gomm, Head of External Communications for the RAC Foundation.

Q54   Chair: Thank you. Perhaps I could start with you, Mr King. Could you tell us why the AA supports the North Report recommendations in relation to drinking and driving?

Edmund King: Yes. At the AA, we carried out a number of surveys using our AA/Populus Panel. That is a Panel of 150,000 members that we survey on a monthly basis. We did some specific questions for the North Report as a request from Sir Peter. The sample size for those questions was approximately 20,000 drivers from across the United Kingdom and all demographics. What we actually found, on a number of the issues on the drink-drive limits, is that 66% were in favour of a lower limit than the current limit. It varied, the number who said 50, 20, but, overall, putting it together, that was the support.

There was also a majority in support of a 12-month ban if you did reduce the limit to 50. That was 64% would support a 12-month ban, or indeed more than a 12-month ban if there was a 50 limit.

I think other issues that came out quite strongly in the research, in terms of the police having powers, whether it is changed or not, to stop motorists and target them with a breathalyser—79% were in support of that.

So I think, generally, our research shows that there is an appetite amongst the motoring public for changes because of the road safety implications. Likewise, on drug- driving, we actually found that 50% of AA members thought that drug-driving might be as big a problem as drink-driving and, again, as Sir Peter has pointed out, the statistics for drug- driving are so sparse. The fact that the Coroner doesn't automatically test for drugs in the system after a fatality means that we haven't got the real evidence.

The other issue that perhaps wasn't addressed in the previous session was this real problem of the mixture of drink and drugs. We certainly know evidence about some people, and I think it was a question here. There was a survey done a few years ago of clubgoers in Strathclyde by the police up there and there was some evidence that people taking drugs—younger people going to a club—would also have half a pint of lager so that if they were stopped by the police the police would smell the alcohol, they would be breathalysed, they would pass the breathalyser and they would be on their way. It is only relatively recently that more police resources have been put into the field impairment test which the police have to carry out at the roadside. It is a cumbersome process and in the forces around the country it varies how many officers they have trained in field impairment tests. If they haven't got many trained and if they don't know the telltale signs of the drug-driver dilated pupils, etc, then we're not picking the people up.

So, again, our evidence from our members certainly indicated that more action was needed on drug-drivers as well as the drink-drive issue, although I would stress, and I know it was raised before, we would still accept that the biggest problem when it comes to drink- driving, without a doubt, is those people who are way over the limit and they are represented more in the fatalities. In the first instance, we would rather see better targeting of the hardcore drink-drivers, the repeat offenders and issues like more drink-drive rehabilitation, confiscation of cars, etc. In terms of road safety, actually getting those people off the road should be the first priority and then we would see the limit as a second priority.

Q55   Chair: Mr Gomm, the RAC Foundation doesn't accept that the 50 mg limit would save lives but you still support it. Is that right?

Philip Gomm: I think we accept it would save lives. I think there is a dispute in the evidence about how many lives it would save and whether the investment in reducing the limit and trying to enforce it would be the best way forward. I think Sir Peter recognised, and it is recognised, that it is the hardened drinkers above the 80 threshold who pose the biggest problem. As I understand it, the effect of drink-driving increases exponentially and it is that hardened group who have the most crashes and suffer the most fatalities when you are looking at the drink-driving population. It is that 1% of drivers that you need to perhaps concentrate on. There is 2% or so of the driving population who fall between the 80 and the 50 and the rest below the 50, who are not particularly a problem at all and wouldn't be encapsulated in any change in the legislation. So we recognise that lives would be saved. Whether that is a meaningful amount and whether that is the best way forward we are not completely sure. We do think it would underline the social norm about drinking. That has been very successful and I think that would underline the stance that the Government and society takes on drink-driving.

Q56   Chair: Is that the main reason that you support the lowering of the level to 50 mg?

Philip Gomm: It is, yes.

Chair: To change perceptions and social norms in relation to-

Philip Gomm: Yes, and to continue the good work that we have already done. But, just in terms of saving lives, there have been various figures mentioned. I think 43 was one and 60 or so was another. There might be better ways of spending money or using police enforcement time to make greater contributions to the road safety figures.

Q57   Chair: Mr Heymer, the Association of British Drivers is opposed to reducing the drink-driving limits.

Malcolm Heymer: That is correct.

Chair: Can you tell us why you hold that view?

Malcolm Heymer: We actually believe that road safety law should be based, as far as possible, on sound science and we believe that the current limit, which has been in force, now, for some 43 years, is based on sound science. It was based on a very large-scale study carried out in the United States in 1964 which found that the risk of having an accident stayed more or less constant from zero up to just below what is now the current limit and then starts to rise quite sharply. As a consequence, we believe that the limit is still correct.

Responsible drivers do not attempt to drive up to the limit. Nobody seeks to drive at, say, 75 mg, and people who are breathalysed and are found to have levels of blood alcohol at that sort of level have probably not been trying particularly hard to stay within the limit. They have just been lucky. The majority of drivers will probably not go much above 50 mg anyway because nobody can be certain what their blood alcohol level is. It is impossible to tell.

One of the main reasons we think we shouldn't be lowering the limit is because of the morning after effect. People who may do everything right the night before—they will get a taxi or get someone to drive them—if they have had a few pints or the equivalent may still be slightly over the limit the following morning. That can still apply with the current limit but it is likely to be much more of an issue with a reduced limit, and if people are being penalised for being over a reduced limit the following morning, that could reduce respect for the law which has grown steadily over the last 43 years. There is medical evidence that, for a given blood alcohol concentration, the level of impairment is less when the alcohol level is falling than when it is rising.

Q58   Chair: Could you tell us where that evidence is?

Malcolm Heymer: Yes. There is a publication called "Loosening The Grip: A Handbook of Alcohol Information", by Kinney and Leaton. In the ABD's written evidence I have reproduced a paragraph from that publication. If you wish, I can read it out to you now but it is up to you.

Chair: No, we just need to know the basis of it. That appears to be disputed by other sources but we just want to be clear where your information is from.

Malcolm Heymer: Yes, that is where it is from.

Chair: Thank you. Mr Leech.

Q59   Mr Leech: I just wanted to go back to a point made by Mr King in relation to his survey. Did you find that there was a big discrepancy between people's views in cities and towns to people's views in rural and semi-rural areas, because, often, one of the arguments being made by people is the impact that a reduction in the limit would have on rural communities? Did your members have differing views depending on where they lived?

Edmund King: Yes. The geographic breakdown that we get from Populus is by TV region. So you can have Anglia as East Anglia. It gives the region view, but I couldn't really tell you what the difference was in Norwich compared with a village outside Norwich. But I am happy to give the Committee the full breakdown from that but I don't think I could categorically say that support in cities was higher than in rural areas. I could say broadly, in geographic terms, what the differences are.

Q60   Mr Leech: Have the RAC Foundation and the Association of British Drivers done similar surveys of their members?

Philip Gomm: Our colleagues at RAC Motoring Services do an annual report on motoring and I believe that, last year, they found that there was over 50% support for reducing the limit, not quite as extensive as Edmund's members or the Populus poll, but I think there is widespread public concern about it.

Mr Leech: How many people did that cover?

Philip Gomm: That was, I think, a thousand. I would need to check the numbers.

Mr Leech: Yours sounded like 150,000.

Edmund King: No. We have 150,000 on our Panel, but the response rates to these questions varied between 17,000 and 21,000 because we asked at different times. Ours is the biggest motoring poll in Europe in terms of the numbers. So I think ours is pretty comprehensive.

Philip Gomm: I am sorry. Edmund's is a survey of drivers. I think this was a public survey so it was not necessarily motorists.

Mr Leech: Mr Heymer?

Malcolm Heymer: We have not actually polled our members directly, but it has been ABD policy to oppose a reduction in the drink-drive limit since 1998, I think it was, when the previous consultation took place. That policy is on our website and members are aware of it, and they haven't complained to us that they think it is wrong. So we assume that the majority of our members support that view.

Q61   Iain Stewart: Partly on this issue of surveys, to what extent is there evidence that this is an age-related issue? My perception is, and it may be inaccurate, that the younger generation regard drink-driving as a no-no. With my peers, we just don't do it. If we're out for an evening we don't drink if we are driving. But my parents' generation think it is perfectly acceptable to have a couple of pints or a couple of glasses of wine and then drive. Is that borne out by your survey evidence? The related question is: If it is an age-related attitude is it the older generation that are the excessive drinkers? Is there evidence to support that?

Edmund King: If I may take that, I think, 10 years ago, I would agree with that assumption, in that the drink-drive campaigns over the years were quite effective and there was a generation of younger drivers who did not drink and drive 10 years ago. Unfortunately, the figures, in terms of the casualties over the last decade, for younger drivers have crept up. In fact, the 20 to 24 age group, in terms of fatalities, are one of the biggest groups.

I actually think it has slipped and that there are two targets. One is younger drivers and one is some of the older drivers who, perhaps, always said that one for the road at the golf club won't do them any harm. But from our surveys, in terms of changes that were required, we actually found it was across the board. The only difference is that female drivers tended to be slightly more in favour of the reductions than male drivers. That showed slightly more than the age demographics.

But I think it shows with drink-driving, like any other things, the importance of targeted and persistent campaigns to get the message across. I think someone asked a question before about drugs and driving. One of the problems there is that we haven't had the same kind of campaigns, and the social acceptability of drugs and driving amongst the younger age group is much higher.

There is a very good report about ecstasy use in Northern Ireland and it quotes a 19-year old girl who said something like, "My father used to go to the Working Men's Club and have a couple of pints and I would always have a go at him for drinking and driving. I now go to a club, have an ecstasy tab and think nothing of the consequences". It kind of shows that amongst some people it has not got that stigma of drugs and driving as the drink-driving has done. Therefore, I think that is why drug-driving needs more targeting by the police, by campaigns, to get the message across that it is as dangerous as drink-driving.

Philip Gomm: Can I just pick up on that? There is a real issue on the mix of education and enforcement, and the RAC Foundation has just published a report looking at the effects of public information campaigns. The report, which was not done by our staff but by Professor Frank McKenna of the University of Reading, suggests that, across public health, there is a lot of doubt now as to the effectiveness of education alone. If it is not accompanied by enforcement—the big stick—then telling somebody that they shouldn't do something, especially when it is linked to medical conditions like addiction with drink and drugs, is not necessarily very effective. I think that would be one of our concerns about any change in the law, whether it was drink or drug related—that you need the enforcement alongside it. There are real concerns how that will happen. As we perceive with speed cameras, for instance, if the money is not there locally to support the enforcement of speed cameras, whatever your view on speed cameras, what is the point of changing a law and making it harder? I think that is an important point to bear in mind as these changes may or may not go through.

Q62   Kelvin Hopkins: If I can go back to Mr King's first remarks, and I think we dealt with this in the first session about an either/or—either better enforcement of the present law or reducing the limit—is it not the case that both are important? If you reduce the limit, you make a step change. If you have enforcement, you make another step change. But without changing enforcement you would still actually reduce the number of people dying on the roads by reducing the limit?

Edmund King: I absolutely accept that. I think my point was: If the objective is purely a statistical one of reducing the casualties, if you could target that hard core who are way over the limit, they are the ones who crash more and kill more people. That is what I was saying. That's not to say that there aren't those between 50 and 80 who also cause crashes.

Q63   Kelvin Hopkins: I would follow up Mr Stewart's point about age- related drinking as well. When they introduced random breath tests in Australia, they found that they were catching vast numbers of middle-aged drinkers who were very clever at driving when they were fairly well oiled. That's what happened. Because they were experienced drivers they could get away with it more than the young people could.

Mr Heymer, again a point made earlier on about drinking at night and then not being fit to drive in the morning. Surely, if we become more conscious of the fact that we might not be able to drive to work in the morning if we drink too much at night, is that not a good thing? We would be more careful about drinking too much the night before.

Malcolm Heymer: Possibly, but, of course, people may not be aware of the problem because, as I have already said, the medical evidence suggests that when the alcohol level is falling people are less impaired. So they may wake up the next morning, feel perfectly fine and, possibly, be quite safe to drive but they might still be over the limit, especially if the limit were lowered.

Q64   Kelvin Hopkins: Is it not the case that many people—experienced drinkers and drivers—feel perfectly fit to drive and it is only this annoying law that stops them doing it?

Malcolm Heymer: I think most responsible drivers realise that you can only have so much before you become seriously impaired and a risk. As Mr King was saying, it really is the hardened drinkers, the ones who go way over the current limit, who are the main problem and should be the target of enforcement because, without enforcement, it is pointless reducing the limit anyway. You have got to have enforcement to catch the people who are really causing the problem.

Q65   Kelvin Hopkins: Would it not be the hardened drinkers that drink a lot the night before and think they are all right in the morning, though, and that the only thing that is going to stop them is enforcement and being breathalysed?

To come to Mr Gomm's point about enforcement, in the past we had a voluntary use of seatbelts. It just didn't work. People didn't put seatbelts on. I knew many drivers, and particularly males, who would think it was a bit feeble to put your seatbelt on, a bit soft. It was only when they became compulsory that we all put our seatbelts on and completely accepted it. Sometimes is it not the case that the law has to lead, rather than follow, public opinion when safety matters are concerned?

Philip Gomm: I think what education does do is pave the way. So if you implement a law, if you have told people why that law is coming in and if you have armed them with the facts, then they might be more accepting. I think things like the smoking ban, going back to this research we have recently done, was an example of that. People might know something is bad for them because you tell them a thousand times, but they don't change their own behaviour for a variety of reasons—they enjoy the risk, they don't think it will happen to them, etc. But when they realise the risk and it is combined with proper enforcement and legislation, then you can move forward, but one or the other.

Q66   Chair: Mr Gomm, is this why the RAC Foundation is supporting this—the proposed reduced limit—even though you are not convinced it will save as many lives?

Philip Gomm: I think we say that we can see a case for reducing the limit. I don't think we said 100% because there are so many factors, but, yes, that would be one of the reasons. If you create a social norm, you tell people that it is not acceptable to drink and drive; these are the reasons why; this is going to be the legal limit and these will be the sanctions if you fail to obey that. You need the whole package and one without the other is meaningless.

I think—sorry, just to continue that—you notice with mobile phone use at the wheel the level for drivers observed using their mobile phone at the wheel is now back to the level it was in December 2003 when that legislation came in. I would suggest that part of that is down to enforcement—the police just haven't got the resources and time to—

Chair: Enforcement is a key part of this. Mr Hopkins, are there any further questions?

Kelvin Hopkins: I think we've made the point. That's fine.

Chair: Okay. Thank you. Mr Maynard.

Q67   Paul Maynard: Mr King, you mentioned the increased incidence of drink-driving amongst those under 24 and how that is changing over time. Do you have any views as to the legislation that they have in Europe—that they have lower drink-drive limits for drivers who are under 25? Do you think that that is a solution to this problem or does it not work?

Edmund King: I think one of the reasons—not to make an excuse for it—for the increase in drink-driving amongst that age group is total confusion that was touched on before about drinks—things like the introduction of alcopops that don't necessarily taste alcoholic but are alcoholic, the different glass sizes, happy hours, three drinks for the price of two. I think a combination of those things has probably had more of an effect.

What has happened in other countries, in France, for example, with the lower limit, the 50, in France a couple of years ago Chirac decided it was totally unacceptable that 6,000 people a year, or whatever it was, were dying on the roads and there was an absolute concerted effort in terms of enforcement, random breath tests, stopping people. In France, it was quite dramatic how the fatalities came down almost overnight, including younger drivers, because people going out thought that there was a likelihood that they would get caught coming back from the café.

So I think our view is that to have a separate limit for younger drivers—some people have talked about having a 20 limit for younger drivers, then a 50 limit—would slightly confuse the issue. We would rather have concerted enforcement across the board initially at a 50 limit rather than confusing the issue. One of the other things is that, if you are a younger driver, does that mean that, when you are 24, you can drink a bit more? It is this question of mixed messages going out. We would rather have a firm limit that the police acted on and enforced.

Q68   Paul Maynard: I am getting a very strong sense from all of you that enforcement is as important as what the actual limit is. How would changing the limit change the nature of enforcement in itself?

Edmund King: I actually don't think it particularly works because a breathalyser is a breathalyser is a breathalyser and you set it different. So changing the limit itself doesn't necessarily change enforcement. Yes, if you breathalyse the same amount as you do today there would be a small proportion today that would be over the new limit.

I think our concern is more generally in roads policing with comprehensive spending reviews and cuts all round that, if police resources—and numbers of traffic police have reduced over the last 15 years anyway—particularly traffic police and those enforcing drink and drug-driving are reduced, then the wrong message goes out.

It was interesting looking at Australia and Holland. Both those countries, when they lowered the limit from 80 to 50, had concerted enforcement campaigns, and indeed education campaigns. The evidence suggests that you need the two to go hand in hand for it to have some effect. So I think enforcement is crucial.

Q69   Angela Smith: It appears to me that the law itself and enforcement and education are the three parts of a necessary package for dealing with issues around drink, drugs and driving, and that they are all equally important.

Just to focus on education, once again, as I did with the previous witnesses, I just wonder whether or not it is sensible for us, as a country, to focus as hard as we do on the education messages around the Christmas period and to basically ignore it for the rest of the year. Does that not, in itself, send out mixed messages? And if we reduce the limit is it not even more important that we focus on the importance of not drinking or driving or taking drugs and driving throughout the year?

Edmund King: I would agree with that. Actually, looking at the figures, it is not every December that is the worst time. I think the last time I looked at it, it was actually summer time-

Angela Smith: Barbecues.

Edmund King: Yes, barbecues and things like the World Cup or sporting events, because with the activities at Christmas people normally plan for them. They know when the office party is. They know when the family party is. So it is actually easier to plan for a taxi or designated driver.

In our experience, it is the more ad hoc events that people haven't planned for—people going for a drink after work or barbecue, etc. So I think the message does have to be reinforced across the year. Also, we have to change the way the message goes out. A TV campaign at 8 o'clock with Cliff Richard singing about mistletoe and wine will not be seen by the 20 to 24 year old group who are the main culprits. We have got to have more viral campaigns online and more creative campaigns that don't necessarily cost a lot of money but get through to the target audiences. You need to get peer pressure, particularly for young drivers, not to get into a car with a driver who is going to drink at all. It is a combination of things but I totally agree it shouldn't just be Christmas.

Q70   Angela Smith: Do you think enough resource is dedicated at the moment to education around this issue? I know you said we can do it more effectively and more cheaply. Nevertheless, is there enough resource?

Edmund King: I think my fear is that in the current economic climate of the Department for Transport where most of the resource comes forward through the Think campaign there is basically a moratorium on spending. Our fear is that there will be less rather than more and, I think as I said before, the social acceptability over time and attitudes over time do change. The initial campaigns "Don't drink and drive", like the initial seatbelt campaigns "Clunk Click", had an immense effect, but they are wearing off; so we do have to find new ways.

Q71   Kwasi Kwarteng: I will just ask a question that I asked the earlier witness. Do you see a time where there will be, essentially, a ban on drink-driving with a 20 limit, which is, essentially, what that is?

Edmund King: My view is that, if you look across Europe, in Southern Ireland they are going to lower the limit next year and, with the exception of Malta, every other country has a 50 or lower limit. So I think, just in terms of UK citizens, even driving to France, etc, they need to understand the limits—that in other countries you can't get away with 80 as you can in the UK. I think 50 is the right approach. I think it is more acceptable. I think it will be some time before you go to a 20 limit. The reason I say that is that at 50 I do believe you can still have a deterrent of a 12-month ban and I think that is an incredibly strong deterrent, and certainly AA members support that—a 12-month ban at 50.

I think, as Sir Peter North indicated, if you went to 20 you probably couldn't justify a 12-month ban and, therefore, it wouldn't be so effective. One of the reasons that even though we have got a higher limit our drink-driving has been more effective in the past than some other countries is because the penalties are harsher, and that is part of the equation. I think we could do more, though, to indicate to people, "It's not just the 12-month ban. You might lose your job. Your insurance costs will more than double." So there are a lot of other effects on the individual rather than just the ban. I think, sometimes, that some of those implications, as well as the safety implications and the human suffering from death and injury caused by them —there are severe financial implications for individuals—we should stress more.

Philip Gomm: I can't see that going down to 20 would happen any time soon and there doesn't seem to be a reason for it. If you are concentrating so much on an area where, I think I am right in saying, in 2008 impairment by alcohol was a factor in 11% of fatal accidents, you can focus on that and focus on that but, then, there is 89% of fatalities on roads that you are missing. If you are boring in on that single issue and enforcing that all the way down to, basically, zero tolerance, then what about all the other areas of road safety that might have better cost-benefit return? I think that that is the case with enforcement judgments across the board. Where are you going to make the biggest impact?

Malcolm Heymer: You also have to bear in mind that any lowering of the limit does have negative consequences, for example, in the economy of rural areas where pubs may close, and not just the economy but the social life in those areas. There isn't a no-cost option to reduce the limit. You have to look at the consequences.

Edmund King: I think I disagree with my colleagues on this. We are talking about 430 deaths on the roads from drink-driving. It is a serious element out of the 2,222 deaths. It is an incredibly crucial issue in terms of road safety.

Malcolm Heymer: Yes, but most of those are above the current limit.

Q72   Mr Leech: In your opinions what main changes need to be made to improve the drug-driving law?

Edmund King: In terms of drug-driving, I do think the first thing we ought to do is help ourselves to evaluate the extent of the problem, because a lot of the evidence—and, I accept, our own evidence—on drug driving is anecdotal, from surveys, what people think, because we haven't got the hard statistical evidence. So, first and foremost, we should build up a truer picture of what's going on. I think coroners looking at it would help. I also think it would be helpful to have more pilots of stopping motorists on the road, whether it is done on a voluntary basis or not, and actually testing for drugs. I think more police training—and I know it has improved in the last 12 months, and that is only because I have been talking to police forces—is essential to look for the telltale signs of drugs and driving, and being able to carry out field impairment tests, and I think, ultimately, a roadside "drugaliser", would be the main deterrent.

The problem at the moment is that many people who take drugs and drive think, probably quite rightly, they will get away with it. They do get away with it, basically. Even if they are stopped, many of them get away with it. If they think that and drugs become part of their lifestyle, they'll continue doing it.

Q73   Mr Leech: You mentioned, at the beginning of what you said, that some drug users will drink half a pint of lager so that they've got an alcohol smell on their breath to avoid the prospects of being checked for drug use.

Edmund King: Yes.

Mr Leech: Do you think it would be useful for everyone who is breathalysed to also be drug tested as well?

Edmund King: No. I think there are ways of looking for telltale signs if the police officers are actually trained—dilation of pupils, speech. There are signs, depending on the drug. Different drugs give off different effects but I think with better training of the police, in terms of targeting the individuals, and better awareness, they will do it.

I think part of the problem is that at the moment to carry out a field impairment test by the side of the road takes at least 15/20 minutes. If it is pouring down with rain it, actually, is quite complicated—getting someone to stand on one leg and count backwards. It is not easy to do and I think, to some extent, because of the difficulty of that enforcement we haven't picked up as many people as we should.

Ultimately, if we can get a roadside screening device, whether it is a swab test or whatever, that just showed the presence of drugs, I think that would be helpful.

Philip Gomm: I think if you had the capability of doing both tests at the roadside then you would do both because that would help unveil the scale of the problem as well. As Sir Peter indicated, if the first test you do is alcohol and you get a positive on that, you then don't pursue it through to the drugs and the scale of the drug-taking might remain hidden. So I think if the availability of the roadside test was there rather than the field impairment test then, why not, for the sake of another 30 seconds or so?

Q74   Angela Smith: I have a point to take up on the development of a roadside test, because Sir Peter did indicate that there is a European research project which is aiming to develop something along those lines but that the UK isn't part of it, on the grounds that it may infringe human rights of drivers.

I have already developed quite a view on this in the few minutes since Sir Peter told us about that. But I would like to hear the views of the witnesses before us now on that issue of the human rights and the balance of human rights when it relates to drivers perhaps being randomly tested as part of a research project versus the human rights of people generally not to be killed at the hands of a drug-driver.

Philip Gomm: I don't think the surveys say we are against drug impairment testing because they violate our human rights. I think all of the public attitude surveys about drink and drug-driving show that the public is very keen to see both areas tackled hard. I suspect that human rights would be a very minor issue.

Q75   Angela Smith: So you think the Government is, perhaps, being too timid, and I'm talking about-

Philip Gomm: I don't know all of the legalities now, but, yes, I would certainly suggest so.

Angela Smith:Yes, they were too timid.

Edmund King: Yes, I think so. At the AA last year we held a round table on drug-driving. We brought together forensic people, Home Office people, Government transport people and international experts. One of the things that was coming through is that there was more progress in other countries with testing devices being used in Australia, South Africa, etc. So I think we have been a little timid.

We haven't asked our members specifically on drug-driving testing but in terms of drink-driving testing and targeted drink-driving and police stopping at random, our members certainly would support that for the greater good of road safety.

Chair: Thank you. Are there any other questions on this topic?

Q76   Kelvin Hopkins: It is an example where, and it happens so often, I think, now, that Governments—and I say both Governments—are behind public opinion rather than being ahead of it. That is very disappointing.

Edmund King: I think that is the case. I think our surveys do demonstrate that the motoring public in general are ready for change on these issues.

Chair: Mr Heymer, do you want to come back? How many members do you have in your organisation?

Malcolm Heymer: I think it is about 1,300 at the moment. Yes, I was going to say that while we, obviously, support roadside testing where people are suspected of being impaired by drink or drugs, we wouldn't really support random testing because we don't think it is necessary, and the police should be or are able to tell whether somebody is likely to be driving in an impaired condition through whatever substance. They have got the right to stop anyone who they suspect of so doing. So it seems rather pointless to waste resources which, as we already know, are going to be fairly limited in the foreseeable future on random testing rather than on more targeted testing.

Also on the subject of drugs and roadside testing, while we would support that, in a way, you are going to be chasing a moving target because as soon as one illegal substance is banned —becomes illegal—someone, somewhere, produces another designer drug and you are forever trying to keep up with it. I think you are always going to have to have as your basis of dealing with drug-driving measures of impairment rather than simple measures of the levels of substances in a person's body because that would be changing all the time and the drugs would be changing all the time.

Chair: Thank you very much for coming and for answering our questions. Thank you.


 
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