New drink driving laws came into effect at midnight on Thursday October 27, meaning a reduction in the drink drive limit — in line with European levels. The new laws will see a decrease from 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg for all drivers, and from 80mg to 20mg for learner, newly qualified drivers (for a period of two years after passing the driving test ), and professional drivers such as bus, goods vehicle, and public service vehicle drivers.
The lowering of the drink drive limit will see the introduction of a new administrative penalty system to deal with offences under the new limits. In all cases, if a driver fails a preliminary breath test at the road side he/she will be arrested and required to provide an evidential breath, blood, or urine specimen at a Garda station. Previously all drink driving offences were dealt with in the courts and an automatic disqualification applied to all drink driving convictions.
Under the new system, if a driver is not already disqualified from holding a driving licence at the time of detection, or has not availed of the administrative fixed penalty notice option in the preceding three years, and the BAC levels in the body do not exceed 100mg, he or she will be subsequently served with a fixed penalty notice. Court proceedings will not be initiated if payment of the fixed charge is made and the penalty accepted.
District Court penalties will apply where the blood-alcohol level is above 100mg, or above 80mg for those classed as “specified” persons, where the person is not eligible to be served with a fixed penalty notice, or where a fixed penalty has not been paid.
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar, joined the Road Safety Authority and An Garda Síochána on Wednesday to launch the new campaign.
Speaking at the launch, Minister Varadkar said: ‘These measures are designed to build on the good progress that Ireland has made on road safety. They send out a very clear signal that drinking and driving cannot be tolerated and will be prosecuted.”
Gay Byrne, chairman, Road Safety Authority, said: “Over the past decade, you’ve saved over 1,100 lives on the road. That’s the population of a small town. Now that the drink drive limit is coming down in line with Europe, we have another opportunity to save even more lives.”
Garda spokesperson, Chief Superintendent Aidan Reid, said: “An Garda Síochána is ready to enforce the new drink driving limits. All the necessary scientific equipment has been re-calibrated and is in place in stations, ready for use.”
Fionnuala Sheehan, drinkaware.ie chief executive warned: “With the arrival of the new lower drink-driving limits, it has never been more important to remember the morning after. The reality is that many of us still do not think about what we drank the night before when we get in the car the following morning. It takes your body about an hour to get rid of one standard drink. That’s one hour for a half a pint, or a small glass of wine, or a pub measure of spirits.”