Last year a report commissioned by ministers recommended that the limit should be cut from 80mg to 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.
But transport secretary Philip Hammond has rejected the proposal and instead promised improved testing equipment to detect drink and drug drivers, along with measures to make the procedure more efficient.
He said: “The number of drink-driving deaths has fallen by more than 75% since 1979. But drink-driving still kills hundreds of people so we need to take tough action against the small minority of drivers who flagrantly ignore the limit.
“Their behaviour is entrenched and after careful consideration we have concluded that improving enforcement is likely to have more impact on these dangerous people than lowering the limit.
“We are therefore taking forward a package of measures which will streamline enforcement, helping the police to target these most dangerous offenders and protect law-abiding road users.”
Alcohol campaigners have described the government plans as a “wasted opportunity” to bring the UK more in line with most European alcohol tolerance levels. But on-trade representatives, who feared more damage to their sector, praised the decision.