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Explainer: How much can I drink under new drink-drive laws? And how long is the ban?



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Transport Minister Shane Ross’ Road Traffic Amendment bill will now go to President Michael D Higgins for consideration following months of unprecedented delay but what does the new law mean for drivers?

What does the new law address?

Despite taking more than 30 hours to pass through the Dáil amid chaotic scenes and accusations of filibustering which were levelled at TDs in the Rural Independent grouping the bill is actually quite short.

There are two key areas which it looks to address: Drink driving and learner drivers driving unaccompanied.

What does it mean for people found drink driving?

The drink driving element of the bill does not change the parameters for drink-driving in Ireland, the limits remain the same but it does change the penalty. Under the new law a driver who is found to be over the limit will now face an automatic driving ban for three months.

The limit stays the same at blood alcohol level of 50mg for experienced drivers. The limit is lower for learner drivers and professional drivers, at a blood alcohol level of 20mg. One standard drink is considered enough to put someone at risk of going over the limit, which includes a glass of beer, a small glass of wine or a pub measure of spirits. However the amount which will put someone over the limit varies from person to person on a number of factors. Road safety experts advocate that nobody planning to drive would consume alcohol.


And for leaner drivers?

The other element of the law – known as the Clancy Amendment – introduces stricter rules for learner drivers.

Under the new law gardaí will have new powers to seize vehicles driven by unaccompanied drivers and motorists who allow learner drivers to drive their car unaccompanied also face a penalty.

Why was the bill so controversial?


The bill proved contentious in the Dáil and was subject to hours of debate before a special mechanism was eventually invoked by Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy to call a halt to the debate.

Rural Independent TDs including Danny and Michael Healy Rae and Mattie McGrath vehemently opposed the bill claiming it was “anti-rural”. There are fears that the bill’s drink driving element will foster rural isolation and opponents claim that the government’s rural link buses do not go far enough to address the problem.

Critics also hit out at the penalties for learner drivers which they say will affect people getting to work and college as waiting times for driving tests vary around the country. The Road Safety Authority (RSA) plans for a ten week average wait time but many places miss this target.

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