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New drink-driving law will see all drivers over the limit face a minimum three-month ban

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Transport Minister Shane Ross’ Road Traffic Amendment Bill came into effect on October 26, the Friday of the bank holiday weekend. The strict new legislation will place a three-month driving ban on drink-drivers, including first time offenders, detected over the alcohol limit.

After months of delays, deliberations and outbursts in the Dail, the Government has finally introduced the Road Traffic Amendment Bill. The Bill was passed in the Dail by 75 to eight votes in July. At midnight on Friday, October 26, the new legislation came into effect.

It will enforce a mandatory three-month disqualification for anyone, even first-time offenders, caught with between 50mg and 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. How much drink will put you over the limit? Well, it’s impossible to say. There are many factors which can reduce or increase the intoxicating effects of alcohol and the amount of alcohol which will put a driver over the limit varies from person to person.

Road safety experts agree that drivers shouldn’t ever drink before driving. It’s not worth the risk. You don’t even need to feel ‘tipsy’ for alcohol to interfere with your driving. You can feel fine but just one drink can increase your chances of being in a collision. Alcohol is a factor in more than a third (38pc) of fatal crashes, according to the Road Safety Authority (RSA), and drinking any amount of alcohol impairs driving and increases the risk of a collision.

Sobering statistics show that between 2008 and 2012, a total of 35 people (12pc) were killed in collisions where drivers had recorded a blood alcohol count (BAC) of between 21 and 80mg per 100ml. This means that seven to eight people, on average, were killed each year over that four-year period at the lower levels of alcohol.

One road death doesn’t just affect the victim. It affects the families, friends, colleagues, neighbours and emergency services. It also has a lasting, damaging and life-altering effect on any driver who is responsible for a road death, as well as their own families and friends.

Mr Ross said that road deaths had fallen from 272 in 1997 to 157 in 2017, the lowest annual figure on record, but “we are still talking about 157 people who need not have died but did”.

On average, 180 drivers were arrested each week in 2017 on suspicion of driving under the influence. RSA statistics show that between January and September of this year, more than 6,562 motorists were arrested for driving under the influence.

Now, drink-driving offences committed at BAC levels between 50 and 80mg incur an automatic disqualification of three months instead of the old penalty of a €200 fine and three penalty points. An RSA spokesperson said the legislation is “necessary to change the behaviour of the small group of people who continue to drink and drive”.

“Alcohol consumption amongst road users is still a substantial problem in Ireland,” according to Moyagh Murdock, Chief Executive, Road Safety Authority. “The introduction of a three-month disqualification for drivers detected with a blood alcohol concentration between 50mg and 80mg sends out a clear signal that drink driving is something that is no longer acceptable or tolerable in our communities. This measure will save lives and prevent injuries. Importantly it will assist in achieving the Government’s road safety strategy target of reducing deaths to 124 or fewer annually by the end of 2020.

“Drink-driving doesn’t happen by chance. It happens by choice and the introduction of this new penalty means some drivers will now have to make more responsible choices. The worst choice to make is to drink and drive and risk losing your license or worse, causing a crash. It is simply not worth the risk. Never, ever drink and drive.”

If you are detected driving over the drink drive limit, whether a learner driver, professional driver or ordinary driver you now face being disqualified for a minimum period of three months. Because all drink driving offences carry a disqualification.

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