Shake up for NI drink driving laws


26 September 2011

by Luke Thomas

The legal alcohol limit for drivers in Northern Ireland is set to be slashed almost in half.

Its Environment Minister, Alex Attwood, has announced proposals to cut the blood alcohol limit from 80mg/100ml to 50mg/100ml.

Meanwhile a much more stringent limit of just 20mg/100ml will be imposed on young drivers and those who make a living out of driving, such as taxi and ambulance drivers.

Along with these changes, Mr. Attwood wants to give the police the authority to stop drivers for testing without the requirement for reasonable suspicion.

Other suggestions put forward include automatic referral of offenders to an approved drink-drive rehabilitation scheme, along with a graduated penalty regime, where there will be fixed penalties for first-time offences at lower limits but court prosecution for high-level first offences or second offences.

If implemented, the changes will make drink driving laws in Northern Ireland similar to those of much of the rest of Europe, whilst being much tougher than those in the rest of the UK.

In the last five years, 75 people have been killed and 463 seriously injured by drivers under the influence of either alcohol or drugs, something the minister finds hard to swallow.

He said: "This is totally unacceptable and I am determined to do what I can to tackle this issue once and for all.

"I have listened to the public on this. There is widespread public support for a step change in how we deal with drink drivers and I believe that what I am proposing will make a real difference."

Julie Townsend of Brake, a road safety charity, welcomed the proposals.

"We actually want a zero tolerance approach to drink-driving," she said.

"We would like to see a 20mg limit across the UK and we have got evidence that the majority of drivers would actually support that tougher stance.”

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