MOTORISTS who consume less than a pint of beer will be liable for penalty points and a fine under the new drink-driving regime.
As part of the changes being introduced in September, culprits will not automatically lose their licence for breaching the new lower limit.
Instead, an on-the-spot fine of €200 will be issued by gardai along with three penalty points.
For the average person, the new limit of 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood is equivalent to drinking less than a pint. It is down from the current level of 80mg.
The penalty regime will see motorists who breach the 80mg limit being served with a fixed charge notice of €400, while also being disqualified from driving for six months. At the moment, they are banned from the roads for 12 months.
Motorists who are caught with over 100mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood will have to appear in court, with a minimum road ban of one year hanging over their heads. They also face fines of up to €5,000.
The laws currently in force provide that all drink drivers be prosecuted in court, placing huge pressure on the legal system.
The new system will be reviewed in 18 months to see what effect it is having on drink driving figures.
Under the changes, motorists caught slightly above the new 50mg limit will also escape a drink-driving conviction.
It is the first time in Irish law that drink-driving has not attracted a driving ban.
Drivers will be legally obliged to notify their insurance companies when renewing their policies.
The more lenient regime will only apply to a single motorist once in a three-year period.
If caught a second time in that period, they will go to court.
Under the Road Traffic Act 2010, the blood alcohol limit of 80mg will fall to 50mg and to 20mg for inexperienced motorists and professional drivers, including taxi drivers and hauliers.
Figures for the number of people caught drink driving have been falling in recent years, with the Garda's power to conduct random breath tests contributing to the decline.