Drink-driving accounted for about 19 per cent of road deaths in Britain, against 12 per cent in the Netherlands and 9 per cent in Sweden.
Yet only one in 26 of British motorists is breath-tested compared to one in four in the-Sweden and one in seven in the Netherlands.
Ministers are said to be "minded" to cut the limit from 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg - the legal maximum found in most of the rest of Europe - and such a move could come in within 18 months. Lowering the limit would be accompanied by increased enforcement with police likely to be given wider powers to introduce random breath-testing.
Ministers are considering three options for penalising drivers who are caught between the proposed 50mg limit and the existing 80mg. These are to: keep the existing penalty of a ban and a maximum six months imprisonment and £5,000 fine; introduce automatic participation in a drink-driver rehabilitation programme; or imposing SIX penalty points for a five-year period on first time offenders, followed by automatic disqualification for a second offence.
There has been an 11 per cent fall in number road traffic police over the past six years and a 29 per cent fall in the number of breath tests between 1997 and 2004. Yet there was also a 6 per cent rise in the number of people killed in drink-drive accidents between 1997 and 2004.
The Department for Transport accepted the figures were still too high, but said deaths had fallen to 540 in 2006, compared to 550 in 2005 and 580 in 2003. It said more than 6,000 people were hurt in drink-drive related accidents at weekends last year, with more than a third of these injured between 10pm and 3am.
Cathy Keeler, of road safety charity Brake, said: "Current traffic policing levels are still disgracefully low. Improved enforcement can only be truly effective in tandem with a lower drink-drive limit."