Sunday 19 November 2017

'No exceptions': Shane Ross insists first-time offenders and 'morning-after' drink drivers will be banned from road

  • Proposal that anyone caught driving with between 50 and 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100ml of blood would automatically be banned from driving
  • Transport Minister says there are 'no exceptions'
  • First-time offenders and 'morning-after' drink drivers will be automatically banned from the road
Transport Minister Shane Ross says there are 'no exceptions' with new drink-driving law proposal
Transport Minister Shane Ross says there are 'no exceptions' with new drink-driving law proposal

Kathy Armstrong

We need to "send out a clear message and show there are no exceptions" when it comes to drink-driving under stricter new laws, Transport Minister Shane Ross has said.

Deputy Ross brought the Road Traffic Amendment Bill before the Dail yesterday, which proposes that anyone caught driving with between 50 and 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100ml of blood would automatically be banned from driving.

Minister Ross said less severe punishments for first time offenders, such as penalty points or fines, just aren't enough.

Speaking on Morning Ireland on RTE Radio One today, he said: "People who are doing this and are over the level the next morning are still impaired.

Transport Minister Shane Ross
Transport Minister Shane Ross

"We cannot take any chances when it comes to alcohol when it comes to driving, we have to send out an absolutely clear message that there are no exceptions.

"If you are going to drive then you must not drink, it is as simple as that and if you make exceptions we'll open the floodgates for people to think it's okay to have one or two drinks and driving the next morning.

#HaveYourSay: Do you think you have ever driven while you were over the drink-driving limit?

Minister Ross said that while up-to-date figures on road crashes involving people with 50 to 80mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood aren't available, there is evidence of drivers with levels this low being involved in accidents.

He said: "We don't know how many exactly but we think it's well over 10 per cent.

"This is based on figures we got historically, not up to date figures because that takes some time to get through the coroners, courts and other places.

"We know that in 38pc of fatal accidents alcohol was a factor between 2008 and 2012.

#HaveYourSay: Would the potential new law of an outright ban make you reconsider getting behind the wheel?

"We are absolutely certain that figure is rising because the amount of alcohol being consumed and the amount of people driving above the limit is unfortunately much higher than it used to be.

"We did think that we had conquered this problem but we now know that drink-driving is all too common."

He continued to say: "There's further evidence as well that that any alcohol intake is an impairment, we are talking about anything above 0 milligrams, we're not brining down the levels, we're just changing the punishment."

He continued to say that he is confident that the legislation will be passed.

The Independent Alliance TD said: "The extraordinary thing that a lot of people weren't aware of until I introduced this bill was the fact that people are driving above the limit and not being disqualified.

"If they're first-time offenders and if they're in the marginal area between 50 and 80mg, they can take three penalty points and pay €200 voluntarily, even though they are above the blood-alcohol limit.

"What I was doing was moving a bill that will ensure that anyone driving above the drink-driving limit will be disqualified and that bill came back to the Dail.

"I was surprised by the opposition to it, I must say, it came from unexpected and expected quarters but I think we're now happy.

"The case for this is compelling and it will go through the Dail eventually."

Read More: Revealed: Car owners who permit learner drivers to use their vehicles unaccompanied face prison or €2,000 fine

He added that he can empathise with worries about the measures causing further isolation in parts of rural Ireland but steps are being taken to try and prevent this.

He said: "We do understand that rural Ireland is extremely isolated in many ways and that social life in rural Ireland can revolve sometimes around the pub, which I have no problem with, whatsoever.

"What we have promised to do - and we have started this process already - is to consult with all interested parties, including the Vintner's Association.

"We hope to introduce plans as a part of this consultation, which would hopefully reduce rural isolation and maybe create ways where people will be taken home after a night out."

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