The Government's chief medical officer has called for a reduction in the legal blood alcohol limit to zero for drivers aged between 17 and 20.
In his annual report, Sir Liam Donaldson said that although the measure may prove unpopular, he believed it would reduce road deaths among young people.
Alcohol and drugs was one of six key health factors threatening the well-being of young people, he said. The other issues which needed addressing were smoking, accidents and violence, diet, physical activity and sexual health.
Road accidents are the leading cause of death among 16 to 18-year-olds, and figures for 2005 show that 1,080 drivers aged 17-19 had drink-drive accidents. Sir Liam said that introducing a zero alcohol limit for young drivers would help reduce this figure.
"I'm aware that this is a controversial recommendation, but I believe it will save lives," he said.
Zero limits for young and novice drivers are already in force in 14 European countries, as well as in a number of Canadian provinces and Australian states. Alcohol use increases the risk of a crash for a young driver two-and-a-half times more than for an older driver, figures show.
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