Thursday 29 June 2017

Drink-drive limit slashed despite late lobbying by publicans

Michael Brennan and Patricia McDonagh

THE new lower drink-driving limit was voted through in the Dail last night despite strong opposition from rural publicans.

The Road Traffic Bill will bring the drink-driving limit from 80mg down to 50mg -- the equivalent of one glass of wine or a pint of beer. And it will also introduce mandatory breath testing for drivers involved in serious road accidents and ensure that foreign drivers cannot escape getting penalty points on their licences.

The bill was voted through the Dail last night despite the opposition of many publicans who argued that the lower drink-driving limits would affect the socialising of people living in rural areas with no public transport. The bill will become law within weeks once it is passed by the Seanad.

Transport Minister Noel Dempsey said last night that the bill had been extensively checked to ensure that it would not be defeated by drivers challenging it in the courts.

Mr Dempsey managed to assuage a rebellion by Fianna Fail backbenchers against the lowering of the limit last October by softening the punishment for drivers.

The new laws will mean a driver with a reading of between 50mg and 80mg will not be banned from driving but will receive three penalty points on their licence for a three-year period. In contrast, drivers who break the current 80mg limit get an automatic driving ban of at least one year.

There will be tougher drink- driving laws for those who drive professionally, such as taxi drivers and truckers. They will be subjected to an even lower drink-driving limit of 20mg -- as will learner drivers during the first two years of their first licence. If they are caught driving with a level between 20mg and 80mg, these drivers will face a three-month driving ban and a €200 fine.

Labour transport spokesman Tommy Broughan revealed there had been intense lobbying in the Dail by publicans yesterday.

Deaths

"I would think it is not acceptable in many respects given the history of drink driving. Since 1960, I think we've probably lost 20,000 people on the roads and we know that drink was a factor in almost 40pc of those deaths," he said.

Fine Gael road safety spokesman Shane McEntee (who is himself a publican) said his party had stood firm on the bill. But he said his party was especially keen to see testing for drug drivers introduced.

Mr Dempsey said he would move to do this as soon as a reliable form of testing at European level was developed.

Irish Independent

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